For over two decades, Merry and I were neglectful parents.
We never took our younger daughter, Missy, to Disneyland.
But this past Easter week we finally cast off our guilt and shame. We enjoyed four days of vacation in sunny, traffic-congested Southern California. We visited Sea World and the beaches in the O.C. (Orange County), and, of course, spent a day at the Magic Kingdom.
I probably enjoyed it as much as Missy, even though it was my fifteenth visit to either Disneyland or Disney World. Many things have changed in the 20 years since my last visit—a few new rides, a number of new Disney characters, and most notably the admission price. But much remained the same: The birds and flowers still sing like before in the Enchanted Tiki Room, for example, and the Jungle Cruise river guides still tell the same jokes.
The Magic Kingdom was still as sparking clean and beautiful as before. One thing that fascinates me about Disneyland is the attention to detail. From the moment you enter through the front gates and walk up Main Street, the real world disappears. Disney wants you to feel like you are in a dreamland of magic and fantasy. A land where everything looks perfect—the flowers are fresh, the colors are vivid, and the restrooms are spotless. At one point I saw an empty cup lying on a sidewalk after the Disney parade, and for some reason I felt I should pick it up … but a street cleaner beat me to it.
It was difficult to find an unhappy face—at least in the morning when everyone was still fresh with energy. People surrendered to the fantasy, and they seemed more friendly and polite than in the real world. If we waited for 45 minutes in a grocery line we would be scowling at the store employees … How dare you make us wait this long? But when that line was for the Indiana Jones Adventure, or the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, we were models of patience and kindness.
Sometimes I think one of the great temptations of our world today is to constantly look for ways to escape from our everyday lives—to yearn for Fantasyland. Disney is not the only corporation offering escape and fantasy; we also find it nightly on television, or in the advertisements urging us to purchase that new computer, that wonderful new car, or that incredible 20-foot bass boat.
The problem comes when we begin living as if our primary purpose in life is to pursue our own happiness. We long for the fantasy rather than dealing with the realities of the real world.
The common view of love and marriage is a perfect example. We grow up absorbing countless stories offering the Hollywood view of fantasy love. We believe that somewhere on earth we will find our perfect soul mate—our “one true love” who will fulfill our romantic dreams and make us feel fulfilled and complete.
I know some of you are thinking, “What’s wrong with that? I believe God led me to my soul mate—the perfect person for me.” Perhaps the best way to explain is by talking about expectations. When God brings together a husband and wife, He never promises perfection; they become one in body and spirit despite their imperfections. They fit together.
Many people, however, never release their Hollywood-inspired fantasy love. What happens when those gushing feelings of love and romance begin to fade into the reality of day-to-day living—the stinky breath, the arguments, and the dirty toilets? How often do people decide, “This marriage just isn’t what I thought it would be. I must have married someone else’s true love!”
As I write these words I keep thinking about Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes. If anyone lived in a Fantasyland, it was him. He had the ability to make all his dreams come true.
In the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes, he describes his quest to “explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven.” His conclusion was, “… all is vanity and striving after wind.”
He sought pleasure, and it was “futility.”
He built houses and vineyards and gardens and parks. He became wealthy beyond anyone on earth. “…All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them,” he wrote. And in the end he realized “all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”
I love the conclusions Solomon finally comes to after pursuing every experience and fantasy to the limit:
“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24
“Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
“Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeing life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life, and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:9
Enjoying life with the spouse God has given you … now that sounds like real-world advice.
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