After fourteen exhausting/exhilarating hours at Disney/Epcot with my wife/kids I have a few thoughts about Walt/friends. Here they are:
1. Disneyworld is an amazing place. There is no other amusement park in the world like Disney when it comes to creating sheer wonder and delight in little and big kids alike (even 43 year old ones.) From Splash Mountain to Peter Pan’s Flight to The Buzz Lightyear adventure to watching my little girl light up at the sight of Mickey and Minnie Disney knows how to get little hearts filled with adrenalin and amazement.
2. Disney is a unifying place. Visiting Disney is like visiting several countries at the same time. People from all over the world collide at Disney to engage in the common denominator of family fun. Last night I chatted with an Indian family based out of London while in line at a Mexican restaurant. And if you really want to go international nothing does it like the world showcase part of Epcot. There are eleven different nations you can visit around a big body of water that represents the ocean. From France to the United Kingdom to Morocco to Norway one can try various cuisine, learn about different cultures and engage in a real life “it’s a small world after all” experience.
3. Disney is a bittersweet place. It’s sweet for all the right reasons from childrens’ laughter to cotton candy to Mickey. But beyond the fun it’s a bitter place for me as well. And it’s not just because of the commercialism and consumerism. There is a certain sadness that envelopes this place if you look closely enough. It reminds us that life is a lot like standing in a long line full of rude people in smothering heat and humidity for sixty minutes to have sixty seconds of fun…only to go stand in a long line again.
It also reminds me that, for those who don’t know Christ, this is as good as it gets. Disney is the apex of the best that this earth has to offer. But, like the rides at Disneyland, it’s all a facade, moving gears and plastic faces to create the illusion of happiness. But all of the fairytales, happy songs and mouse eared hats in the world could never erase the stark reality that the ride will end someday.
Don’t mean to be goofy here but I mean it. This is truly heaven on earth for those who don’t know Christ, the closest they will get to happiness…and it’s all as fleeting as an overpriced ice cream cone in the hot Florida sun.
Another thought struck me last night at 9:30 pm as I watched the finale of the fire/fireworks extravaganza called “Illuminations” at the Epcott Center. The announcer tried to repaint history as a “grand story full of drama” about how the world’s various cultures have survived and thrived with each other to create the wonderful world we live in. But that’s as much bologna as the stand in the Italian cafe in the circle of nations was offering to passerbys. If the fireworks during Illuminations represented wars, famine, pesitilence, AIDs, vice, murder and greed then maybe he had a point. But I have a sneaking suspicion that to this announcer and to the Disney braintrust they all really believe that if they really believe every bad thing on this planet will turn to magic dust and fairytales.
The problem is that, apart from Christ and His story, there is no grand story, no epic adventure. Apart from Jesus the fireworks have no boom.
It’s interesting to me that Disney does a phenomenal job of developing storylines from Snow White to Monsters Inc to The Incredibles. They create stories full of drama, complete with good guys and bad guys and the hero always wins. But when they try to manufacture a story apart from God for their “Illuminations” show there is no illumination at all, just sugary sweet “we are the world” and it’s a small one jibber jabber.
This may sound corny but Disney for me is like the set up to a joke with no punchline. Because, as a believer, I have hope in this life and the after one, I can enjoy the rides and the candy and the shows knowing that there is WAY more for me on this earth and in heaven. I can enjoy the best that this world has to offer at Disney while knowing that the eternal Creator of the Universe who created us with the capacity for having fun and feeling happiness is preparing the ultimate “Disneyworld” in heaven for us someday.
I’m not saying that heaven will be full of rides (but who knows?) What I am saying is the best that this world has to offer from Disneyworld to Hawaiian beaches to the Colorado Rocky Mountain views is a mere taste of glory divine for those who have accepted Christ as their Savior.
Heaven, the ultimate playground, is coming. On that day we will see that it is not a small world but a very big one, with people from every tribe and every nation there. Let’s bring as many people as we can with us through the gates of heaven. Admission is free, purchased by the blood of the Lamb.
In heaven there will be no more sin, sadness, death, mourning and there will be no more “it’s a small world after all” song. That tune will be playing eternally in the ninth circle of hell.
Greg Stier is the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with youth leaders and students, equipping them to be effective in sharing the gospel. With experience as a senior teaching pastor and in youth ministry for almost 20 years, Greg has a reputation of knowing and relating to today’s teens. He is widely viewed as an authority and expert teen spirituality. He is known for motivating, mobilizing and equipping teens for positive change. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries, and the Invicible 08/09 conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org.