Keep Swimming - A Pastoral Note from Jenny

Dear friends,

“Hey there, Mr Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” - Dory, Finding Nemo

In some vulnerable self-disclosure, I confess to feeling overwhelmed at the moment. I go to bed at night feeling worn out, and I get up in the morning somewhat refreshed — until I look at my calendar for the day and exhaustion floods over me again. My calendar is delightfully and frustratingly full. Most things that crowd the hours and minutes are exciting, energising in their own right, and fit within the areas I feel most competent to serve the Church. Even when specific tasks might not be most pleasant, I can recognise my gifts are useful in the particular contexts.

It is the relentlessness of it all that is making me feel overwhelmed. The clog of busyness. That and the fact that there is an ever-increasing need that on my own I know I will never satisfy. There-in lies the key… on my own I know that I am not enough for all the need. And I have constant wonder in the midst of the overwhelmed-ness — I am not on my own. I am in the midst of wonderful people who are part of this body, the Church, who are amazing companions and co-workers with Jesus as we constantly struggle to adapt to the changing situation around us. I have a deep awareness that I do not have to “do it all,” whatever the “it” might be. I am one, and I must do my part, but only my part.

Yesterday as I became aware of this sense of being overwhelmed, someone out of absolute love and care said to me, “I just want to fix you.” I whispered in reply, “I am not broken.” I will admit to being very proud of that quiet declaration. (And I’m certain they really meant they wanted to fix the situation for me, rather than wanting to fix me!) I am overwhelmed because there is much to do. I am grateful because I get to be involved in it. I am humbled because there are many people who work alongside me, sharing the tasks of ministry and mission. So I need to find the ways that help me keep my head above the water.

Today I am listening to Dory. I am hearing the simple message of encouragement from this fictional fish character — Just. Keep. Swimming! Just keep going, keep picking up one thing at a time and focusing on that. Look to the next step, not necessarily the end goal at this time, just the next step and ‘swim’ toward it.

I guess if I want to unpack Dory’s statement even further— which I do because hey, let’s have some fun with it! — there is even greater simplicity in this advice than just doing the next step. When Dory says this to Marlin (Nemo’s father who is frantically trying to find and rescue his son, and who is overwhelmed by the hugeness of the ocean), she is reminding him to do what comes naturally to him — swim! Fish are made for swimming. It is what they do best. It is how they are formed, and the environment in which they live. The tasks God lays before me and that fill my calendar each day are ones I have gifts and skills to achieve, or that I have the ability to learn how to achieve. It might feel like an ocean around me, but I only have to swim in my little bit of it.

“I am not broken.” I will say it louder now. When we are overwhelmed, we need to remind ourselves to simply look at the next thing on our (possibly evergrowing) list and focus on that. “Just keep swimming.” I know that I will not get over feeling overwhelmed, but I will get through it. Thank you to all of you who ‘swim’ alongside me — you help to keep my head out of the water! If you are also feeling overwhelmed, or when you do at another time, I hope you are able to consider me one of your companions, and we can encourage each other to “just keep swimming.”

Blessings and peace,