I do not recall how the mention of the movie Finding Nemo entered the conversation on the bus ride out this morning, but I instantly jumped in – feet first. Strange that someone who cannot swim would jump in that way, but the movie is one of my favorites and my most-quoted film by far. Lines such as “Can’t hear ya, Peach!” and “Today’s the day! The sun is shining, the tank is clean, and we are gonna get out of here” find their way out of my mouth more often than I care to admit. One line in particular, as listed in the title of this piece, seemed to fit today: “Just keep swimming.” There is no particular measure of beginning nor end when you are on your fifth day in another country. The beginning seems so distant, the end seems so near, yet there is so much that will still be done.
When there is much to be done, and when the continuity of relationships is uncertain, just keep swimming. It may not be right to say that I have “favorites,” because I have loved every one who has crossed my path, but I do. Alexa and Nancy have a special place in my heart, and they know it. My connection with them came to life because of my decision to “go swimming” during my first visit to Honduras. With nothing but free time remaining in the afternoon of a field day at a park, I ventured on to a playground without a translator to swim – to be with the children in spite of the language barrier. I understood enough of their communication to be able to swing on swings, slide on slides, and climb on monkey bars with them. Once you’ve done those things with someone, you have a friend for life.
But what about now? Now that this trip has an end in sight, now that I have intentionally come back not just for them, but for them nonetheless. I keep swimming. I knew that I would probably see Nancy for the last time – on this trip – today. Lord willing, I will have time with Alexa and the rest of the third graders tomorrow during an all-day field trip to the caves. I am not a big fan of “good-bye,” so how do I navigate the waters? I swim. When Jesus knew that his work was coming to a close, he kept “swimming.” John 16:31 tells us that Jesus exclaimed, “You believe at last!” His arrest was around the corner. His death was drawing nigh. But Jesus did not stop, and neither should we.
What is “swimming” in this analogy? Well, what was the point of the line in the movie? The line in the movie became a mantra of forward movement to find what they were seeking, a chant to say in the darkness as they searched for the light. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Did Jesus not say that he is the light of the world? He also said this: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4,5) Jesus desires that we keep swimming – that we press through the darkness, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in search of the light. Even when Jesus knew that a time of darkness was coming, he pressed on. He prayed.
Jesus prayed for himself, praying that the work of God in Jesus would bring glory to the Father. Jesus then prayed for those closest to him – his disciples. He prayed for the disciples to be one. He did not pray for them to be “as one” or “like one,” but that they would be one. That same request for unity appears in Jesus’ final petition to the Father when he prayed for all believers: “that all of them may be one” (John 17:21a). Jesus knew his time was coming, but it was still day. While it is still day, we must work.
I started to sense the difficulty of having to leave soon when Alexa gave me the first hug of the day. She did not let go. She did not have to, but I knew she knew. While we were sharing in her classroom, I caught her looking at me often. I did what I could; I gave her a smile. I was around Nancy often today. We played “rock-paper-scissors” and “over-under” in the games. Nancy is feisty – she will not be pushed around. But even in that moment a quick look and a smile can change her expression. As the students prepared for lunch, Nancy was asking me a question that I did not understand. When I could not answer, she found another person to give her the answer. She wanted to know if we were about to leave. Yes, we were, and that made her sad.
Keep swimming. This afternoon we spent time with a group of students who participate in a tutoring program in another community. I had not met them before and we were going with them to a children’s museum. I found myself internally questioning what could I possibly gain from such a short time with students I had not met? Just keep swimming. The eight students were prompted to introduce themselves in English. One of the boys, Daniel, had his right eye damaged in an accident when he was only one year old and can no longer see from that eye. As has been the case more and more, I already “knew” that he would sit by me on the bus. The students went on the bus first, and I went to the seat where I had left my belongings. It was with Daniel. Although the students were encouraged to speak in English, Daniel and I communicated in English. Later I learned that Daniel does not like to talk to people because of his eye, but he was freely sharing with me. I learned a lot about Daniel, and especially took note of the fact that he likes to write, including poems. God helped me see the light because I kept swimming. But the power to swim came not from me, but is only by the power of the Holy Spirit going before me – removing the resistance that would impede me. Because of this, on a day where I sensed the darkness of an impending “good-bye,” I found the light of a new relationship.
Gracias a Dios.