Dolphin Tale 2 – Change, Freedom and Purpose


Bring your tissues…you may need them at Dolphin Tale 2! It’s touching, and though there are some sad moments, it was the rejoicing ones which made me teary. The movie is clean, uplifting, inspiring…and inspired by a true story…overall I have to say it was just refreshing. Aside from the feel-good factor, it also had some simple but powerful messages that are worth discussing, whether you are four or forty. There’s something in here for all ages and all walks of life, but let me focus on just two—one for kids and their parents (yesterday’s post), and the other for those of us who might be facing a change in life (today’s post).

For those of us in transition or in need of freedom:

Clay’s vision was to run a rescue, not an aquarium. “Rescue. Rehab. Release.” That was his mission. Really, it’s the church’s mission, too. Rescue people from darkness. Rehab them from the habits and sins of their past, healing their wounds and teaching them healthier habits—the ways of Christ. Release them into the world, into the wild again, so that they might live the lives God intended for them to live…and rescue others so the cycle repeats. The church was never meant to keep its people within its walls and confines any more than Clay’s facility was. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). When Mandy was healed, rehabbed and set free back into the ocean, I confess that I wept. It was so beautiful watching her become the thing she was created to be. She was created to be free. It would have been so easy to keep her in captivity as a friend for Winter, but even though that would have been a nice purpose for her life, it wasn’t what she was created for.

There was an underlying current in the movie, a theme, a message about purpose and freedom. Clay was under a lot of pressure, and not just from his daughter, to keep Mandy there. The board, the investors, the public, everyone was pressuring him to keep Mandy for Winter’s sake…and for the sake of the income that she drew. The public loved to come visit Winter which brought them a lot of money which enabled them to rescue more animals. Mandy would have been an easy sacrifice for the good of others, Winter, the public, other animals in need… but Clay’s challenge was that they had to be willing, not to sacrifice Mandy, but to sacrifice for Mandy. He wasn’t willing to compromise on the mission of his rescue. He felt that everyone had to live out their purpose, Mandy included, for the best of all.

They did right by Mandy, sent her out into the world to fulfill her calling, to be truly free. And they waited, not knowing if they would lose Winter to another aquarium with a female friend to pair her with, or if maybe God would provide another solution. The door closed, but a window opened, just in time. Hope came. She was so young that, if she survived, she would be too domesticated to be able to be released into the wild. She did, and she and Winter became the best of friends.

It’s a theme though, not just the story of the dolphins, so we see it again and again. Lorraine talked to Hazel about hospitals. “No one’s here because they want to be. They’re here because they have to be, and they don’t stay one minute longer than they have to.” Hospitals have a purpose, to get its inhabitants healthy enough to leave. We get that with hospitals though. We understand that no one plans to stay in a hospital forever. We don’t always get that with other things…like our home…like a good job or a good situation.

This was what Sawyer was facing. He had an opportunity to do an amazing internship at sea, but it would mean leaving the wonderful situation he had. He would have to leave his work at the CMA, leave his home, and most difficult—leave Winter. He didn’t want to leave any of it, and yet, it was an amazing opportunity of a lifetime.

Dr. McCarthy brought him a gift. A beautiful heirloom watch that only worked if you continually shook or thumped it. “The watch is…beautiful,” he explained, “but the trouble is it’s been in that box too long—it’s stopped working. Sometimes, you’ve got to shake it up again to get it moving. Too many opportunities out there, Sawyer, to spend your life in a box, no matter how nice that box is.”

We all know that we don’t want to linger long in a hospital. There are a lot of stages in life that feel an awful lot like a hospital…stages in life we are eager to leave behind as soon as we are able. But there are also an awful lot of wonderful stages in life that we aren’t eager to leave behind—beautiful seasons, guilded boxes, good families, fantastic jobs and bosses… and sometimes we don’t recognize that, though lovely, their purpose has been served…they aren’t meant to last.

I heard Beth Moore talking about this just this morning in her 1 and 2 Thessalonians study (the first lecture). She talked about how Paul and Barnabas had had a great partnership…but then they had a falling out. After that falling out, Paul met Silas (or Sylvanus) and Timothy. Timothy who became more dear to him than any one. Paul and Barnabas had a good thing going. It seemed a shame to break it up. Maybe though, God had been urging them to split up the dynamic duo in the spirit of multiplication. We don’t know…but when things exploded between them, as painful as that was, something new and tender and wonderful emerged. New partnerships, new ministries, new friendships… She made a point that sometimes we just want a repeat, but God wants to do a new thing, not a redo… a “remix” she called it—something fresh and different. We already had the first thing. It was great. It served its purpose.

When Hope and Winter were introduced, it was rough at first. Winter was different. She had no tail. She didn’t look or feel like the dolphins Hope had known, and she was scared and resistant. It took a little while, but they are inseparable now. The transition was hard for Winter, too. She went through a long spell of depression when her companion died, before she met Hope. Change is hard. We do have to suffer times of missing what was and of adjusting to what’s strange and different and scary. The question isn’t perhaps so much what the struggle may entail, but what is on the other side. The question is whether or not the gain is worth the cost. Just know that, like that watch, Jesus wants us to be more than just beautiful, he wants us to be useful and so he has to take us out of our beautiful box and shake us up a bit from time to time to get us moving.

Are you being urged to leave your box? Are you being thumped or shaken? Don’t despair. God has a plan for you good and His glory—and He’s got to get you moving you so you can be a part of it.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Rescue. Rehab. Release. How is this like the church?
  • In your experience, which of these (rescue, rehab, release) has the church been really good at, and what have they struggled with?
  • Have you ever been in Sawyer’s position? Not wanting to leave something wonderful, even though you feel you should? What happened?
  • Have you ever wanted to keep someone from leaving (even if it was to go do what they were made to do) because you wanted to keep them behind for your own reasons, or the good of someone else? (Like Hazel wanted to keep Mandy for Winter.)
  • Have you ever sacrificed what you wanted to free someone up to do what was best for them?
  • Mandy was created to be free… what do you think you were created for? What is freedom for you?
  • Have you ever felt that someone was keeping you back from being what you were created to be? Have you ever felt trapped?
  • Doing what was best for Mandy ultimately brought what was best for everyone. How might that principle be true in your life?
  • The change/transition was depressing for Winter, scary for Hope and stretching and testing for everyone else (stretching their faith, testing their character). Which of those do you feel the most when you are in a time of change/transition?
  • Have you ever thought about the fact that people in the Bible had to deal with similar changes in their lives? They too had to deal with change and transition and fear and uncertainty. They had to leave things and people they loved behind when God called them to go to something new. How does that make you feel, knowing that people in the Bible know how you feel?
  • Are you facing a change in your life right now that you aren’t very excited about? What encouragement can you take from Dolphin Tale 2, and/or the life of Paul as discussed above?
  • When you’ve had transition/change/loss in the past, what good things came from it that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Click here to read quotes from Dolphin Tale 2.

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