A few years ago, I took my daughter to Disney’s Magic Kingdom for the very first time. We both were giddy with excitement — Lili to ride Space Mountain, and me to create a lifelong memory with my daughter in the happiest place on earth.
We began our day with a tour of a small museum filled with original artwork from the Disney archives. We saw the original bench from Griffith Park in Los Angeles, near the old merry-go-round, where the idea of Disneyland was born. I smiled as I read Walt’s account of the moment when the idea first entered his mind: “Saturday was always Daddy’s day… I’d take [my daughters] to the merry-go-round and as I’d sit there, sat on a bench, you know, eating peanuts, I felt that there should be some kind of an amusement enterprise built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.” Walt’s dream was to create a world where princesses roam and where good always wins.
That’s a breathtaking vision, something almost akin to what I imagine heaven might be like. A carefree haven with no sadness, no pain. A place where dreams come true when you wish upon a star. A place to fulfill the universal longing for happiness housed deep within us all.
Today’s Disney experience is far more than a day at a theme park. It taps into our universal search for “happily ever after.” Young and old, we are all pilgrims in pursuit of a happiness that satisfies. So we make the pilgrimage. We create memories. We experience moments of pure joy and childlike giggles.
But this week, events in Orlando tragically remind that even in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom, there is no escaping pain and hurt. My heart aches for Orlando, a city who is undergoing deep sorrow upon deep sorrow. As I write these words, I’m sitting at an airport watching CNN broadcast the details of this week’s horrors, with Orlando at the center of every story. My heart aches for the parents who just lost their two year old son in an alligator attack. My heart aches for the death of Christina Grimmie on Saturday. My heart aches for the 49 families whose sons and daughters were ripped away in a heinous act of violence targeting the LGBTQ community.
The expressions on the faces of travelers waiting with me at the gate tell me that I’m not alone in feeling the heavy weight of grief this week. There is something particularly jarring when the Magic Kingdom sets the stage for so much tragedy and loss. When tragedy strikes in and around “the happiest place on earth,” we are reminded that no one is safe.
Life, even in and around the Magic Kingdom, involves deep pain.
Turning away from CNN, I find myself longing for a different Kingdom. To a place that will actually deliver on the promises that the earthly Magic Kingdom can never fulfill. Surrounded by agony, I yearn for the Kingdom of God, the place which will supersede all the pretend kingdoms on earth.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5a)
The promise of this coming Kingdom of God emboldens us to run towards the pain we find in this broken world. Our Rescuer has come, and He is coming again one day to make “every sad thing come untrue,” as J. R. R. Tolkien once said. And so with great grief for what we see, and great hope for what is to come, we can run towards the hurting praying, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). I long for us to be people who run towards our grieving neighbors.
This week, we are again reminded how much we crave for the Kingdom of God to come. And we “weep with those who weep” knowing that one day, every sad thing will become untrue (Romans 12:15). Come, Lord Jesus.
The opening of this blog was adapted from 40/40 Vision.