"Son, why have you done this? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety!" Luke 2:48
Disney-Pixar's Finding Nemo has returned to movie theatres to show off its new 3D capabilities, and of course, to bring in a few extra dollars on a guaranteed investment. Cynicism aside, re-releasing a movie like this is a treat because it really is a great film worth the few extra dollars to see it 3D.
The story is a role reversal of sorts. Typically with a film about a youth getting lost in the wilderness, the focus is on the growth of the child, and to some degree this is true. But the emphasis here is on the emotional and spiritual development of the father.
For those who haven't seen the movie or who need a refresher, Finding Nemo is a father-and-son tale of Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a clownfish so scarred by his past that he is fearful of anything beyond his anemone home, and Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould), a wide-eyed kid with a slight handicap (his right fin is smaller than the left) and a desire to move out of his father's shadow.
On his first day of school, in an attempt to prove he can make it on his own, Nemo is captured by divers on the open ocean and brought to live in a fishtank in a Sydney dentist office. Meanwhile, despite his fears, Marlin races into the deep to desperately find his son. On the long journey through the Great Barrier Reef, he meets a cast of characters, but none so important as Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres), a Blue Tang fish with a short-term memory problem and a heart of gold.
In a way, Marlin becomes the hero of the story, fighting his way through danger and distance when his son is concerned, proving that love conquers all fear. When the focus of our life is constantly pointed towards the love of others, we can overcome all odds. Marlin, a fish normally afraid of anything outside the comfort of his home, was able to swim through dark deep abyss, go headlong into shark-infested waters, navigate among a forest of jellyfish, and make it through the belly of a whale - all for love of his son (and in some cases, love for his annoying companion Dory).
The film itself seems comparable to the experience of Mary and Joseph in the Scriptures, realizing they had lost their son in Jerusalem. Like Marlin and Dory, they searched everywhere for Jesus - among relatives, in the dangerous city streets, and ultimately, after days and days, finding him in the Temple. (see Luke 2:41-52 for the whole story).
When they find him, Mary turns to Jesus and says, "Son, why have you done this? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety!" (Lk. 2:48) To this remark, Jesus says he has been safe and secure all along in his Father's house. What this does is turn the tables on his parents, and offers them a lesson in their desperate search.
Here the young Jesus asks his parents, and by extension asks us, to look closer at our own journeys of great anxiety. Often when we are frantically looking for something or to complete something, our focus is on the end goal. This was especially true of Marlin who was able to use this focus to make it through the vastness of endless sea. But Jesus also asks us to take a moment and look around us and within us: when we are constantly moving "with great anxiety," we can forget the rest of the world and ourselves.
In his incredible journey to find his son, Marlin often took for granted the blessings he received along the way: the constant companionship of Dory, the unique encounters with oddly compassionate sharks and whales, the helpful wisdom of a school of moonfish, the sage advice of the 150-year old sea turtles gliding through life on the winds of the current, and an aquarium of welcoming fish (and one wayward pelican) in Sydney who protected his son unbeknownst to him. And despite his closed-off attitude at times, they still wanted to help - and without that, Marlin would still be looking for Nemo.
Today, our lives our often run at an obnoxious pace, frantically searching for something or looking to finish this or that task so we can move onto the next. We are Marlins swimming upstream.
When we live like this, we can often forget the people around us and the experiences that come to us. We can be so focused that we don't stop for a moment for gratitude or even rest. Our idiosyncrasies can go unchecked when we don't listen to the advice of those around us. While it is true that focus can bring about our goals, let us also not forget that the journey is just as critical as the destination.
Finding Nemo is aptly named, as the time Marlin spent finding Nemo gave us, the audience, a remarkable story. The reunion of father and son is the hope of the film, but the real joy for us is the journey. Likewise, when God watches our lives, he may want us to succeed in all our tasks, but he especially enjoys watching how we got there.
Let us pray for each other that we may take a few moments, come up for air like a humpback whale off Australia's coast, and take in all we meet, all we see, and give thanks to God for all we received.