Reflections on life from a Disney trip

This is a re-posting of a blog from a few years ago.

A couple years ago my family visited Disney World. Visiting Disney World is such an experience. It certainly gives me plenty of things to ponder. I’ll reflect here on a few:

1)      We adults need time to act like children. It’s amazing how easy it can be to let your inner Child come out and play when it’s socially acceptable to do so. At Disney, no one cares at all if an adult runs down the street to hug Mickey. It’s expected that everyone can act like a child. If only our churches could learn this lesson. Imagine a family of believers where it was perfectly acceptable to respond to God’s deliverance with shouts of praise or cries of desperation. It’s not that difficult to imagine: find like-minded people and you’ll see how easy it is when people don’t feel scared to respond to God. Of course, the best way to do that is to start being that kind of person right now, wherever you are. If others don’t like it, so what. You’re not responding to them anyway . . . God loves our inner Child. He created that part of you too.

2)      The government and the Church should require a very special, rigorous license for people to become parents. Disney is the place to see how phenomenally bad some people are at being parents. I was two feet from a woman yelling at her son in a Stars Wars store. He wanted to buy stuff; she wanted to leave. He cried and screamed; she got in his face and yelled at him: “I already told you we’re leaving! I don’t even know why  I let you try to buy any of this junk anyway!” Her finger was so close in his face that the boy had to turn his face or her finger would have scraped him. She wasn’t yelling at the top of her voice, but you could hear them both in most of the store. I kept looking at her with a “You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” face. I told Elaine several times I wish that I had a fake Department of Social Services badge that I would whip at my whim. All I could I hear in my head was Dr. Phil, in his Texas accent, “How’s that workin’ for ya’?” If you’re a parent, and this situation happens to you and you don’t know what to do, please, for the love of your children, come chat with me.

3)      There are over 63,000 workers at Disney on any given day. Yes, 63,000! And you hardly know they’re there. They blend in. They serve. They do their job. And none of them get much praise. Parents are too busy chasing after kids. Imagine if we, as Christians, were perfectly content with not getting praise from people. What, if like those workers, they simply did their job for the greater good of the organization? What if you were content with never being the star – or never getting full recognition for what you’ve accomplished at home, at work, or wherever? Imagine a kingdom of servants . . . millions of them across the globe. It starts with you and me, right now, today.

4)      It doesn’t matter at all if you’ve never been to Disney. It only takes a few hours to acclimate and understand. They hand you a map of the resort; they hand you a map of the park; they hand you a map of the restroom. Everything is planned and easily located. In fact, there is a sign in the bus that says (and I quote): “Get to know the Kingdom . . . come to the Information desk.” Yes, “Get to know the Kingdom” – how? By reading the instructional maps. Talk to someone who knows this place. Get to know how the Kingdom works. Woot! That’ll preach all by itself. Do you know enough about the Kingdom to be a reasonable, accurate guide? How well do you know the Kingdom?

But I’m not done yet – it doesn’t seem to bother anyone at all that they don’t know where everything is. They don’t know the system or the characters that well at first. They have to learn the system and the narrative of Disney World to understand the symbols and the way it all works. There is a segment of churches (and church leaders) who think we need to scrap everything in the church’s symbolic world that is foreign to an outsider because it “makes them feel anxious and out of place.” News flash: they areout of place. If they’re new to Christianity, it should be very different indeed. And guess what? They can – and need to – learn our narrative and our symbolic world in order to understand how it all works. Like Neo in the Matrix, or the three children who look past the Wardrobe and discover a whole new world called Narnia. And it just so happens that those children are central characters in the Real story of the world. Guess what – they had to learn the narrative and the meaning of the symbols in order to fulfill their true purpose in life. Baptism, preaching, sacrament, Eucharist, marriage, forgiveness, confession of sins – central symbols of the Church’s narrative. They matter. Scrap them and we have no more narrative or meaning to give people. Worse than that, we simply replace the Church’s symbolic world with our own. Give them a theater stage instead of a sanctuary; give them entertainment instead of worship; give them simple, stupid, repeated lines instead of theological poems put to music; give them charismatic, anecdotal speakers instead of preacher-scholars; give them a latte instead of a Bible; give them pep talks instead of gospel; give them “uh ohs” and “mistakes” instead of “sin”; give them positive thinking instead of redemption; give them self-empowerment instead of obedience. And that’s all great if you’d like – just take the word “church” off of your sign. Matter of fact, drop the name “Christian” too. That name is already taken.

5)      People bring their problems with them wherever they go. Vacations don’t take away communication problems. They only manifest it. I heard one dad screaming very loudly, right in his son’s face, to “just shut up!” while the dad tried to unlock the door to his room at the resort. It must have echoed for a mile. God’s mercy doesn’t fill me in those moments, I must confess. For a brief moment . . . ok, for more many moments, I wish Gabriel or Michael would come down and scream in that man’s face with all the wrath and fury of he and his angels. To see that poor kid standing there with his head hanging down in shame and fear evinces in me a profound feeling of wanting to lock the dad up and rescue the child. Vacations cannot be escapism. Families are thrown together; marriages are put to the test. The American commonplace of just “needing to get away” is a pipe dream for most people. Fears, pain, desperation, worries, go with us to the beach, the town home, and even Disney. No amount of rides or hours at the pool can take away what can only be handled properly – through good communication, prayer, and whatever else needs to be done. Save your money and time. Get therapy and then go on vacation. The families I saw that were laughing and loving on each other – and there were many – show how they treated each other when they weren’t on vacation.

6)    You should have seen Julia when she finally got inside the castle. She was already dressed up just like her hero. She had just been to Bippity Bop Boutique to get pampered. Her dress – just like Cinderella. Her make-up – just like Cinderella. Her hair style – just like Cinderella. Her purse, slippers, and princess crown – just like Cinderella. In her mind, she had literally “put on Cinderella.” Paul speaks about this exact same thing: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). Clothe yourself with the risen Jesus and you’re not just playing “dress up.” You’re being empowered by the Creator of the universe. Just like Julia, acting and dressing like Cinderella was the best, closest possibility to actually being Cinderella. And in her mind, she was Cinderella.

And you should have seen Julia when she finally saw Cinderella in the castle. There she was — the chief object of her affection, her hero, her example, the chief object of her entire thought-world in all of her playtime – in the flesh. Julia had waited so long to meet her. She had dreamed of this day for so long. What would she say to her? How would she act? What would Cinderella do when she saw Julia?

Julia smiled from ear to ear.  Time slowed down. Julia moved in slow motion. Their eyes locked. She stared in awe at Cinderella. She slowly walked to Cinderella and forgot about everything else. I have parents? Nope. I have to go potty? Nope. I’m a little girl? Nope. Do people like me? Who cares. What do people think of the way I’m dressed? Who cares. I’m in the presence of Cinderella. Nothing else matters in the whole world. Nothing at all.

She crept up to her object of worship. Cinderella knelt down slowly, put out her arms, and they embraced. Julia was swallowed up by her hug. And in a small, child-like voice, Julia whispered something in Cinderella’s ear. You could barely hear it; Julia could barely speak. It was so gentle, honest, and from the depths of Julia’s soul.

Cinderella’s face lit up. And with a glowing smile, Cinderella said back to Julia, “I love you, too.”

Marana  tha = “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20) Just come. I have something to tell you, too. And I hope it makes your face light up . . .