With an almost two-year-old here in Sanctuary, I’m getting to revisit all the great movies of early childhood such as Finding Nemo. If you don’t recall this famous animated movie, it centers around a young clownfish named Nemo and his overprotective dad Marlin. Because of a tragedy that happened to Nemo’s family before he hatched, Marlin is an ultra-protective dad. He continually rescues Nemo from dangers that exist mostly in Marlin’s head.
While Nemo rebels against this over-protection and lands himself in a lot of trouble, he also has no idea what to do without his dad. He’s relied on someone else fixing his problems for him his entire life. When he gets put into a fish tank and gets sucked into the intake filter, the other fish all dash to help him get out. All except for the angelfish, Gil. Gil shouts “Nobody touch him!” and then suggests that he can get himself out. He stays with Nemo until he’s able to wiggle himself out of the intake filter.
In our religious tradition, we have a concept of salvation that is rooted in the person being able to help themselves out of their situation. Spiritual rescuing people is not as crucial as being physically present in the struggle. We can not fix each other, yet we must be there for each other.
This is the basis of how we offer Sanctuary. Sandra is here in our sanctuary, but we are not telling her what to do to fight her deportation. She tells us what to do. She knows what she needs, and the best strategy to win her stay of removal. We are not rescuing her; we are present for her. We have created a holy space so that she can win. To show the rest of our community what our faith looks like in public – rest for those facing persecution.
As we consider this month the phrase “All My Relatives” we should think on how we are connected to those we don’t even know and how we could help them. Perhaps giving a homeless person money is not as important as giving them some of your time to listen. Perhaps having a relationship with Sandra here in Sanctuary is more important than all the media coverage we’ve generated about offering sanctuary. Perhaps its better to let children figure out their own problems, when they are old enough. And perhaps salvation is not rescue, but just being there.