Standing in the Shadow of the Kingdom
If you’re a regular reader, you’re well aware of my love of all things Disney. I love the parks, I love the culture, I love their obsessive attention to detail and their fastidious commitment to serving guests well. That’s why the following story is so incredibly odious that I almost can’t bear to tell it. But tell it I shall.
There is a person on our staff team who shall remain nameless, because after reading the following you are going to immediately hate him and want to bring him bodily harm, and I don’t want to be an accessory to your criminality. Back in the summer, he and his wife (also nameless, because liabilities) had the opportunity to spend a week in Orlando working with one of our summer projects. Being Orlando, they took their three kids – ages five and under – along for the ride. And being Orlando, you’d think they would introduce their kids to Disney. Which they did.
You see, Disney costs a family of five roughly six jillion dollars per day, plus the requisite Mouseketeer Bar fees ($721 per person, per hour). And my staff friend doesn’t necessarily roll in that type of dough. So he and his wife embarked on a rather ingeniously devious plan, for which I both salute them and despise them. They stocked up on Disney paraphernalia at the dollar store. They bought Disney t-shirts at Target. They drove to the Disney parking lot, loaded the kids up on the Disney ferry, and shuttled them across the Disney bay. They disembarked the Disney boat, stood in front of the Disney turnstiles, pointed out the Disney train and the Disney flowers, and took some Disney pictures.
Then they loaded the kids back on the ferry and went back to the hotel.
That happened. It really, really happened. They made their kids think they were going to Disney. The poor things still think they went to Disney. They rode the boat, saw the flowers, and smelled the popcorn. But then they left. Before they experienced the park, they left. Before they got to the good stuff, they left. They stood in the shadow of The Happiest Place on Earth, but didn’t really experience the happiness.
(Sure they saved a lot of money on a non-Disney trip, but imagine what they’ll be paying a shrink in fifteen years.)
Now, lest I wax eloquently about the special circle that Dante would create for such parental monsters, let me point out the obvious: we do the same thing every day of our lives.
We talk about God’s grace. We sing about God’s grace. We study and proclaim and teach about and stake a claim on the unmitigated, inexhaustible, unimaginable depths of God’s grace. But too often, we’re content to stand in the shadow. Too often, we hop on a boat and walk up to the gate and almost encounter it, but we don’t actually encounter it. We study more about it. We talk more about it. But we don’t actually live in it.
That’s where I find myself far too often. I get up in the morning and read all about the grace of God. I call out to my heavenly Father in prayer, thanking him for his grace that he’s promised me. But at that moment, I’m still at the gates. I just stepped off the ferry. I haven’t walked through the turnstiles and plumbed the depths of what’s waiting on the other side. Rather, I get antsy about my schedule. I try to earn his favor throughout the day. I obey him because I’m supposed to instead of because I get to. I harbor the feeling that maybe he doesn’t love me as much as he says he does, that maybe there’s one more thing I can do to get it or one more thing I might do that will lose it.
And then I reboard the ferry, take another lap around the bay, and step off to stand just outside the gates one more morning.
I want to walk through the turnstiles. I want to see what’s on the other side. But living in that real, inexhaustible grace is both frightening and freeing, intimidating and illuminating.
But the truth is, living there takes us to the happiest place on earth.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV)