*Posted by Kirk Spencer
I have been to Disney Land a couple of times, but this summer I got to go to Disney World! Which is very different…It was a sort of a “rite of passage” for me. I remember seeing pictures my dad had taken when I went to Disney Land as a kid. I was one of the skinny little boys in front with the impatient look on my face. Mom was behind us, smiling at the camera with her vacation smile. And to the side was grandma and grandpa who seem to be looking for shade and a place to sit. They were not smiling. They had just walked around Disney Land several times trying to keep up with the younger generations. Well, this summer I was the dad and my kids were the ones constantly wandering off. And Grandma and Grandpa were there too—but now they have these motorized chairs you can rent.
So as summer comes to a close, and we long desperately for that first cool autumn breeze, let me offer a few observations about my four days at Disney World.
Walking and Smiling
First, I noticed that people walk into the park in a completely different fashion from when they leave at closing time. They arrive with a brisk, excited sort of forward-leaning, long-strided gait (maybe even a few happy skips). They leave in a sort of slow, wide-legged, waddling shuffle (especially if time has been spent on the water rides). I also found it interesting watching people smile on cue for the camera with their broad vacation smiles—where the mouth is smiling but the eyes are wondering if it is really as much fun as was expected. Why is it that life often seems more enjoyable in the planning and in the remembering, rather than in the fleeting moments when we waste the present worrying it is not living up to what we’d hoped? This is especially true when someone is bothering us to smile on cue for the camera? We use up the present attempting to capture our future past.
I entered one of the air-conditioned gift shops to do a little temperature-reduction loitering and noticed that they were selling survival bracelets. A survival-bracelet is a certain length of nylon survival rope that has been artfully woven into a really nice looking bracelet. The idea is that you wear it, it looks good, and if you ever are lost out in the wilderness you have all the rope you need to survive (I wonder how many people have actually been saved by taking such a precaution). Well, the reason I bring it up is that these particular survival bracelets were covered with sequins…I’m not kidding. Either this feature is designed to take precaution if you ever get lost in the wilderness in your fine evening dress, or it is simply making fun of the fact that paranoid post-modern people would wear survival rope around their wrists when they probably never even get within a hundred feet of wilderness. (Like those who buy expensive off-road vehicles but would never dare actually take them off-road because they might get dirty. What a waste!) However, I must say that Sequined Survival Bracelets are fitting for an amusement park in one sense—many, if not most, of amusement park rides are designed to induce our bodies to produce the survival hormone adrenaline (epinephrine) which can cause feelings of sequined euphoria when coming down off the high (that’s about the time you’re getting off the roller coaster) as you realize you survived. A sequined survival bracelet is similar to a park that would make entertainment out of something that was meant for survival (the fight-or-flight hormone).
Out of the Picture
Long ago, when my dad took pictures of the family at Disney Land, we had to wait weeks for the film to “come back from the developer.” This summer we were looking at pictures we had taken at Disney World while we were still at Disney World. However, one thing was like the “olden days.”
I realized it when my wife said, “Who took this picture of us in front of the Disney Castle.”
I asked, “Am I in it?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Well then, I took it.”
I wasn’t in the picture because I was taking the picture. It was the same with my dad. He was never in the pictures of my childhood, because he was documenting my childhood. Yet just because He wasn’t in the picture doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. Not only was my dad there all the time, he was the one paying for the trip, and the food, and the clothes, and the souvenirs. He was the one planning, and driving, and guarding. And then, after all of that, he wasn’t in the pictures because he cared enough to take them. He made it all possible. If he hadn’t done what dad’s do, there wouldn’t be anything tangible to talk about. Dad did everything that really needed to be done, and without him, was not anything done that really needed to be done. I often think of this fact when skeptics ask why God isn’t “in the picture.” He’s not “in the picture” (presently) because He’s busy making the picture and doing all those things that God does.
And when someone says, “Why didn’t God think of a timer on the universe so He could be in the picture?”
I say, “He did!”
The timeless One, Who made the world (and time) took on flesh, and stepped into time to be “in the picture” for a time. But we, being in the darkroom, did not comprehend its development at the time. And so, though the Maker of the world was in the world He made, the world did not recognize its Maker—even when He was “in the picture.”
The most memorable event of my summer vacation actually occurred near the beginning. Most of my life I had heard about the beauty and glories of Disney World—the light shows, the laser shows, the fireworks, the 3-D and 4-D, and the holographic special-effects. After being on the road for two straight days driving from Dallas, we arrived in Orlando at dusk. My anticipation was at an all-time high to see, for the first time, the bright Disney Complex. A thunderstorm had been growing on the horizon for several hours. It was coming up from off the coast to the east. As the sun was setting behind me, I could see the storm growing in front of me. And while you might not believe this, at the moment I looked out the window to see the lights of Disney the cumulonimbus tower of that storm was right over the Disney Complex against the beautiful sunset. It began to flash blue and white forked lightning and spread liquid light in an almost constant light show though the vast interior of that storm tower. The show reached upward as far as I could see into the heavens. In my 53 times around the sun I have never seen a more magnificent, majestic, and awe-inspiring show of light and power—and it happened at the very moment that I first glimpsed what could be argued as the greatest show on earth. And now, after four days at Disney World, I can confidently say that of all the shows I saw (and have ever seen), none could hold a candle to God’s light show. And though most might consider this just a coincidence, I could not help but think that it was my Father letting me know that He was there (and He was a better showman) even if He wasn’t in the picture.