Our Dream Vacation
We just got back from the best vacation of my life.
Me and my family of five got to travel to Orlando, Florida to celebrate my cousin’s wedding at Disney World. We loved the time visiting with family, staying in a gorgeous villa, and of course – going to the Magic Kingdom!
My kids really are the perfect age to visit Disney World. The girls are both 4 years old and my son is 2. At this age, Grace and Nora are just starting to pick up on the concept of make believe. They have a hazy understanding that some things are real and some things are pretend, but they can’t exactly identify which is which without mommy’s help.
That means for now, princesses seem pretty real and special effects are absolutely magical.
My favorite Disney memories are:
- Gracie screaming “this is so awesome!” on roller coasters – She couldn’t get enough of the adrenaline rush. My wild child will tell you, “I want to ride on these forever!” and she absolutely means it.
- Nora being amazed by Disney magic – My little engineer was totally stumped by how Disney magic works. I especially loved her in the Tikki room. With her biggest smile on, she kept jumping up and down saying, “mommy HOW are these birds and flowers singing?!”
- Henry milking it with the princesses – He’s only 2 and he already knows how to get the ladies. From tripping on his way to Ariel so she’d give him a comforting hug, to twirling with Cinderella and playing the shy card with Rapunzel before blowing her a goodbye kiss, this little man stole the show and everyone’s hearts.
Overall, the entire day was epic; and that made me leave the park wondering, how does Disney do it? Millions of people flock to Disney World expecting an absolutely magical experience well worth all the trouble. And not many leave disappointed.
So what is it about Disney World that makes us so happy?
What I realized is that the magic of Disney World is actually something so basic, we can (and should) experience it every day.
How Disney Does It
The real magic of Disney World is their understanding of human nature. Disney knows what makes humans happy.
From what I observed, Disney World seems to “manufacture” happiness 2 main ways:
- Moments of Wonder – Whether it’s the adrenaline rush of riding a careening roller coaster or the exhilaration of meeting one of your favorite movie characters, Disney World delivers extraordinary experiences around every corner. Every ride and every show stun us with elements that are well beyond our normal every-day experiences. Interacting with something you can’t explain leads us to wonder and amazement – and those are close cousins to joy. We love to encounter something bigger than ourselves.
- Shared Delight – The first time I went to Disney World on my honeymoon I had a pretty good time enjoying the park’s attractions. The next time I came back my heart could barely handle how happy I was enjoying my kids’ reactions to the park’s attractions. Is there anything better than seeing your 4-year-old’s jaw drop when she meets her favorite princess? Seriously, this moment made our whole trip worthwhile:
Seeing my kids happy and knowing that I was part of bringing them that happiness was one of the more satisfying things I’ve done as a parent. All day felt like Christmas – constantly handing my kids new presents and getting to watch them ridiculously love each one. Disney World knows they can multiply your joy by the number of people you share it with which is why the whole park is designed to be a family experience. Not only did I laugh watching the Monsters Inc. jokes show, I then turned to see Henry fall on his seat in a goofy overreaction, Nora cover her mouth to contain all her cute giggles, and Grace shout out loud her own punchline answers and that all led to triple the reason for more happy laughter.
Why It Works
Disney World didn’t invent our inclinations towards wonder and relationships, they simply cashed in on it. What they’ve really picked up on are some of the essential aspects of our divine design.
It’s simple – we want to wonder, because we are made for worship.
From early on, we have a curious bent to believe in magic, and that serves as evidence that a simply natural world would never suffice. Somewhere rooted in this physical body and this material mind there is soul that savors the supernatural. It’s displayed in different ways, but it’s never denied. Disney World gets this right. Magic is amazing.
And shared delights are better because we are meant for relationships.
This life isn’t fully experienced if it’s lived alone. Loving one another is deeply satisfying. And sharing our happy experiences with another exponentially increases our joy. Meaningful relationships not only enhance our lives, they are the very motivation we have for life and living.
While I’m grateful Disney World reminded me how I was made to experience joy, what they left out was honestly the most important part: the magician Himself.
There’s More Magic
There was an unforgettable moment at the end of our day when we were watching the closing fireworks and listening to the “When You Wish Upon a Star” montage. Gracie heard these lyrics and acted on them right away:
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
Grace looked up at the Disney castle and gleefully yelled, “I wish I could fly!!!” A second later, she whipped around and with her frustrated little face asked me, “Mama, why am I not flying?!!” Before I could respond she tried again, this time asking for her own playground. But again, her request went unanswered and I had to explain to her that the song didn’t exactly work that way.
The people around us ate it up. They thought it was so cute. But really, it was kind of profound. In the midst of all the Disney magic, Grace ran into reality. Disney World has all the top notch special effects in the world, but they are no magicians.
And that is exactly Who they are missing – the only magician, God Himself.
Both our bent toward worship and our delight in relationships are meant to point us to the source of our joy – Jesus Christ. Not only is God the Creator of our capacity for joy, He is also the One Who “magically” conjures joy for our delight.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Worshipping a limitless God means we have a lifetime of unlimited wonder ahead of us as often as we step back and take in our amazing God. And sharing the delight of those moments of wonder with God and His people promises to exponentially increase our joy along the way.
What Disney gets right in part is fulfilled completely in Christ. At Disney World we get immediate delight, but it’s fleeting. It fades the moment you walk out of the park. What we get in Christ is unperishable, eternal, enduring -it grows rather than wanes. It sustains through suffering and is a hopeful reminder of the even greater inexpressible joy we have ahead of us.
Special effects are amazing, but who would ever chose that over real magic? The source of wonder, the source of all goodness and relationships all come from one place:
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
What if we spent as much time pursuing joy in our eternal relationship with God as we do planning for a temporary trip to a theme park? What if we really believed we could have more than Disney World every day?
The ticket to our joy isn’t the one to Disney World – it’s the experience of knowing and loving God and it’s already been paid for by the King. Let’s take joy in that today.