This past October my wife and I took our boys to Disneyland. One afternoon as I returned from the Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpass station, I scurried across the moat, over the drawbridge and through the gates of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I was en route to It’s a Small World to rejoin my family.
My body tensed as I collided with the wall of humanity inside Fantasyland. I sidestepped princesses, tuned out screaming children, and scanned the queue for Peter Pan’s Flight. Shocked at the depth of the line, I skirted an oblivious stroller-pushing mom and shimmied past a dad corralling his kids.
Glancing at the camera-toting parents chasing their kids around King Arthur Carousel it struck me that the word “Fantasyland” is a misnomer.
As a self-proclaimed marketing guru (ask my wife), I’d suggest Disney is ripe for a “deceptive adverting” class-action lawsuit. Although this may have been what the medieval judicial system was trying to prevent when it introduced the concept of Caveat emptor (buyer beware) – to govern commerce between buyers and sellers.
I slowed between the Carousel and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to survey the proverbial land of fantasy. I saw hundreds (maybe thousands) of strollers parked everywhere my eye could see. It was then I realized that none of the rides inside this enchanted land had Fastpass access. No, the wait times here are amongst the worst in the park. It’s as if Walt Disney himself plotted to quarantine all the infants, toddlers and unwitting parents in one part of the park. Like a juvenile detention center, the youngest and most dangerous humans known to parents were imprisoned right here.
My pace quickened as I sought to blow through the nightmare called Fantasyland.
Now smiling to myself (thankful that my kids have outgrown this part of the park), I sensed an overwhelming concentration of exhausted parents, melted down princesses, and grimy Mouseketeers licking their fingers and picking their noses. It makes sense that Fantasyland sits just outside of It’s a Small World. After all, anything communicable on the planet has either been caught or transmitted here. Sounds more like a hot zone than a fantasy.
Researchers recently proved airplane armrests and seat pockets sustain living bacteria for up to 72 hours. I shuttered to think of the bio hazardous waste smeared on the handrails of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. They sure named that ride appropriately.
But then I had another thought. Maybe Walt had it right. In a stroke of genius, Walt built a double entendre. On one hand Fantasyland is the tangible manifestation of all the magical things about which we humans dream. On the other hand it’s a microcosm of our human experience – a place where exuberant expectations are dashed, and yet strangely met via something much less than expected.
Think about it. Some of life’s greatest moments – fell woefully short. We build lofty expectations for things like our first kiss, college, our first job, marriage, kids – even vacations to Disneyland. Then as we live out life, people and situations that miss the mark often dash our hopes.
At the same time, as we look back on life, some of the most vibrant memories were at one point in time…disappointments. Think again of your first kiss, college, your first job, marriage, kids – even vacations to Disneyland.
Maybe that’s why Fantasyland resonates so deeply. It isn’t all that foreign to our human experience. It strikes a chord with kids and adults alike.
To kids it’s the petri dish in which their dreams are grown. For parents, it’s where our kids’ fresh dreams take priority over our broken ones. Deep down, we know the power of imagination and dreams. Maybe we hope our kids will be able to run the gauntlet of life and make it through with their dreams in tact.
Probably not! But that’s ok. Hopefully by now we’ve learned that even in disappointment – we can find joy. For most of us, whether we consider ourselves dreamers or pragmatists…we have dreams. Some call their dreams “plans” because it sounds more “practical” (ahem…sweet wife of mine). But in some bizarre way, our dreams do come true. We just have to re-work them along the way.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Proverbs 16:9. It reads:
The mind of man plans his way,
But The Lord directs his steps.
Another favorite is Psalm 37 (verse 4), which reads:
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
These passages remind me that God not only knows the longings of our hearts, He desires to fulfill them. Whether I experience joy or disappointment is really up to me. The important thing is that I delight in The Lord. When I do that…the stories seem to have happier endings.
So as I hurried past the Storybook Land Canal Boats and waited for my family to exit It’s a Small World – I exhaled. And I thanked God. I thanked Him for helping me see that while life isn’t a fantasy…it is an amazing journey. And I thanked Him for caring enough to chart a path that so often satisfies the longings of my heart.
One of my favorite authors, Dr. Tim Kimmel wrote a book about this – and he called it In Praise of Plan B. It’s a delightful book, full of reminders that God often replaces our Plan A’s with a Plan B’s of His design. And while these detours are not what we planned…they often fulfill the longings of our hearts.