As you might have noticed, I’ve been gone for a few weeks. I took the month of October off from the blog to wrap up some things for the publisher on my first book, and to do some serious writing on the second. I also took a wonderful trip with my wonderful wife, which has sparked this particular entry.
When my wife and I were married in June of 1986, we didn’t have much of a honeymoon trip immediately after the wedding due to work, so a few months later, in the Fall, we went to Disney World. We consider that trip to be our real honeymoon. And so, as our schedules would have it, we returned to Disney World (just the two of us again) to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We have been a few times with our children in the intervening years, but we like it so much that we wanted to revisit what it was like to just wander at our own leisure. Of course, we missed the kids at many points, but we also enjoyed being on our own clock, too.
One of the things that we did on this trip that is difficult with four children in tow, was people-watch. Whenever we were tired, or just wanted to drink up the Disney atmosphere, we would find a place to pull aside and see who else had shown up. As we were talking on about the second of our five days there, my wife, Mary Ann, made an interesting observation. “I’ve noticed,” she said, “that the maintenance men at Disney don’t look much like maintenance men at all.” It occurred to her that almost everyone we saw that was walking around with a broom or a grabber and picking up bits of trash was middle-aged, fit, wore a headset, and had a bearing unlike the typical janitor that we are accustomed to seeing employed at various businesses in South Alabama. We ruminated on possible reasons for this, the most likely being that maybe they were retired military who were just fulfilling a childhood dream by working in the wonderful world of Disney as their twilight years approached. I couldn’t quite buy it all the way, but it was all we had.
The next day, I made a separate observation. “I have noticed,” I said, “that the only place you ever see uniformed security people at Disney is at the front gates as they check the bags coming in. Where are the other security people?” Being old enough to know some things about human nature and how the world works, I knew that it was downright impossible that everyone who entered this happiest place on earth was automatically going to be on their best behavior simply by walking down Main Street. In fact, I had seen enough Grumpy parents and Dopey kids to know that it was pure Fantasyland to expect it. There must be security personnel everywhere, keeping an eye on things. And then it hit us. Those aren’t janitors! They’re the Secret Mickey Police!
And sure enough, the next day, as we sat on a bench in one of the parks, we noticed a “janitor” walking purposefully with only a grabbing tool (no bucket or bag to put trash in), looking at everything but the ground. A few minutes later, a panicked father came by, shouting the name of his lost child, and then, seconds later, here comes Janitor Man, radio in hand, walking back by with Panicked Dad and asking pointed and helpful questions. And there, in the Magic Kingdom, we saw the real Kingdom.
I am convinced that Disney does not want its guests feeling watched over by the Law at every turn. They want them to feel free—free to have fun, free to enjoy their vacation, free to live outside of their day-to-day existence. But they also want them to be safe. And in the midst of their fun, carefree celebrations, they are being kept safe, even though they don’t know it, by the hidden but constant presence of justice, righteousness, and goodness.
And there is the Kingdom. Many of us enter at the gate of the Law, through a clear recognition and admission that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Law shows us that we cannot please God, but at that gate, there is a Savior. He declares to us that He has already paid for our admission into this new Kingdom, and by grace, we enter in. And as we enter, we find that we are free! We have been released from the daily grind that was our life of performance to please God, and we are introduced to a life of sonship where His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. We are free to really enjoy life, and to be with countless others who are enjoying it with us. And in this Kingdom, we are not governed by the constant reminder that the Law is watching our every move, but by a governor placed in our very own spirit, a Spirit Himself, who shows us how to enjoy this life in the Kingdom by loving the King and honoring those who abide there with us. We avail ourselves of all the experiences that this Kingdom has to offer, and we make friends and encourage others along the way.
But the King knows, and we can know, that the Law has not been abolished. It is still very much there, but it is being fulfilled in us. And as we bring our hearts and lives into grateful submission to the principles of life that the Law represents, we don’t have to have the Law staring us down around every corner, warning us to be good and threatening us with what will happen if we are not. And we live the lives that the Law was provided to help us live to begin with. But we live these lives, not in fear and apprehension, but in freedom and in great love.
And this Kingdom becomes, truly, the Happiest Place on Earth.