“…that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” –Acts 17:27
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” –Romans 1:19-20
This summer our family went to see the newest Pixar movie, Finding Dory. Being the follow-up to the classic, Finding Nemo, it had much to live up to, and unlike most sequels, it did not disappoint. The film was packed with emotion, action, and the perfect blend of interesting new characters and familiar favorites. Former NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano once said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.” When I left the theater after Finding Dory I had done all three; I had had a full day.
But of all the things I loved about Finding Dory, what I loved best was the story’s depiction of how many people actually find God. [Spoiler alert, stop reading now if you don’t want to ruin the ending!] In Dory’s quest to be reunited with her long-lost parents, near the end of the movie she appears to have exhausted all her possible avenues. Dejected and alone, she notices some sea shells lying neatly in a row. Suddenly, the words of her parents from her childhood come flooding back into her memory: “Just follow the shells. The shells will always lead you home.” The camera then zooms out to reveal the entire ocean floor covered in a meticulous web of shells, all leading to one central location. We come to find out that, unbeknownst to her, Dory’s parents had never stopped looking for her. In fact, they had gone out every day and left shells so that one day she might discover them, and find her way back home.
So how is Finding Dory an illustration about finding God? Well, sometimes people find God because he bursts into their lives like a flash of lightning (much like he did with Saul on the road to Damascus; see Acts 9). This kind of miraculous intervention is not unheard of. But perhaps more common, people find God because he has left signs all over his world, divine shells that he has carefully laid out to point lost children back to their heavenly Father. Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, commented on this dynamic taking place in Athens when he saw the people there had erected an altar “to an unknown god”. He declared to them, “God is not far from each one of us.” In other words, “just follow the shells – follow the signs in creation and in your hearts that tell you that there is a God who made everything you see.” And then Paul shares with them the most important information they need to know, he tells them the identity of the unknown God. He tells them about Jesus.
Do you know someone who appears to be far from God? Maybe you could find ways to show them how God is actually not far from them. Just like Dory suffered from short term memory loss, we too easily forget what God has plainly set before us. We need help in order to remember. Maybe you are the one who feels like Dory, lost in the vast ocean and without hope. The good news of the gospel is that your God has not stopped looking for you. In fact, he has given you the ultimate shell, the ultimate sign of his love, his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and was resurrected for you. Follow him, and just like Dory you will discover the deepest longing of your soul. By God’s grace, this is what is taking place every day in the classrooms of Seven Rivers Christian School: lost Dorys are finding their way back home to the Father.