In honor of our upcoming Disneyland trip with the family, I thought I'd share an experience that happened a few years ago on another trip to Disneyland (plus some pictures from our previous trip too).
It happened like this (names have been changed to protect the guilty :-)):
"No! I don't wanna go!" Katy pushed out her lower lip and drew her eyebrows into a dark scowl. "I want Splash Mountain!" Her face wrinkled into a mask of stubborn fury.
Katy's look was so at odds with our surroundings that I had to shake my head. We were in Disneyland, where laughter and fun were the order of the day. How could anyone be gloomy when Mickey Mouse, Snow White, or Goofy stood on the corner to bring smiles to every face? After all, this was the Magic Kingdom.
"We'll go there next," Katy’s mother whispered. "But first, we're going on the Pirate ride. You'll like it."
"No!" Katy stomped her foot as we got in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Soon, we were stepping into the big boats that would take us on our magic ride through pirate country. The soft music of crickets and water gently lapping against the sides of our boat did not calm Katy's angry spirit. She continued to glower. She refused to look around as we glided through the bayou. Her little sister cried out in delight and pointed to the tiny lights that were meant to be fireflies. Still, Katy didn’t budge. Even the pirate treasures did not interest her. She didn't "ooo" and "ahhh" as we floated through the middle of the big pirate battle, with cannon balls flying across our bow to land on either side. She didn't laugh at the rosy-cheeked man being dunked in the well or the pirates
chasing women through the windows of the town. She wouldn't join in as we all lifted our voices to sing "Yo ho, yo ho, it's a pirate's life for me."
Nothing got through to her. Even as we came around the last bend, still humming the pirate song, her frown had not dissipated. We all tumbled from the boat, the other children laughing, giggling, and excitedly talking about what they had seen. But not Katy. Despite all the magic of Disneyland, especially in the Pirates of the Caribbean, she was still mad.
I again glanced down at her small, grumpy face. Then, I stopped short as recognition whispered through me. She looked – gulp - an awful lot like me. In
fact, I was sure I had worn that same expression just a few weeks ago at church. I remembered the morning well. I had been scheduled to make an announcement about the women’s retreat at the beginning of the service, but the pastor said we didn’t have time. Then the worship team had cut my favorite hymn in order to put in some frothy chorus. And to top it off, the pastor shortened the time when we usually had prayer requests, but he left plenty of time for greeting one another. Nothing had gone the way I wanted it. I wanted Splash Mountain, not the Pirates!
Cold realization formed a lump in my chest as I grabbed Katy’s hand and headed out the ride’s exit. Had I been as silly as her, sticking out my lower lip at all the fun of the Magic Kingdom?
After all, Sunday morning services should be as joyful and fun-filled as Disneyland. I went to church to worship my God and Savior, to learn more about Him, and to enjoy His presence with others who love Him too. What could be better than that? Yet, instead of relishing the special time of gathering together in God's house, I was just as unhappy as Katy because everything didn’t go my way. I, too, had allowed selfishness to creep into my heart, so that I couldn’t enjoy the ride God was taking me on. What a shame!
These days, I try to remember Paul’s instructions: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4, NIV) That way, I can laugh and appreciate God’s Sunday morning Pirate rides, whether I’d rather be at Splash Mountain or not.