Life can get pretty serious sometimes, can’t it? Horrible news isn’t hard to find, devastation and heartache and big hard things are practically everywhere you look. It’s easy to get pulled into the dark, to be weighed down by the heaviness that is so thick around us. And it’s easy, in all this muck and mire fogging our world, to stop having fun.
There were eleven of us. Eleven full grown humans filing off the airplane into the Orange County airport. Dad, brothers, sisters, husband, in-laws. Our cheeks hurt from smiling and peals of laughter burst out every few minutes. Disneyland or bust we cheered. A downpour greeted us as we unloaded from our bus in front the park’s gate. “Rain won’t stop the magic,” one of my brothers shouted. Giddy and gleeful our party entered the park, soaking in both the rain and happiness.
This wasn’t my first trip to Disney. I was there last summer – running through the park on a hot August evening to celebrate my sister’s birthday. And for years I’d wanted to make the trip with my husband, so for Thanksgiving break we spent three days at the park – getting our fill of every single Disney experience. And on Christmas morning we looked in our stockings to find the promise of an upcoming trip with all the siblings. Three times in six months. I could break some sort of happiness record.
The thing about happy things is that they seem so trivial, so excessive. I felt reluctant to tell everyone I was going again. What am I, some sort of spoiled rich kid? It’s the same way I feel when I stop at Starbucks for a caramel macchiato, or spend a whole afternoon reading a novel, or get ice cream and watch a chick flick. The happiness seems unnecessary, and maybe even counterproductive, to living a functional life. Go to work, pay your bills, donate to charities, do the dishes. These seem like the important things. Everything else is fluff.
But when I looked at the mesmerized faces of my family as they experienced World of Color for the first time, when my husband and I stood hand in hand in front of the lit castle as a ‘snowfall’ concluded the firework spectacular, when my sister and I sprinted from Space Mountain to catch the last Big Thunder Mountain ride at 11:58 p.m., when I felt wind whipping through my hair as the rollercoasters shot through the air, when we belted Zip-a-dee-do-dah and asked to go around one more time on Splash Mountain, when we laughed and danced our way through the happiest place on earth, fun became a little less superfluous and a little bit more like oxygen to raise our weary spirits heavenward.
“Life is not an emergency.” It’s a truth I keep tucked away in the top of my soul. Things get crazy, sorrow seeps in, grief overwhelms, resources are tight, jobs are hard, relationships are difficult, and the nights are so dark. And yet we don’t need to run from one task to the next, heads down and jaws clenched. We don’t need to panic, to lash out, to draw the covers over our head and stay burrowed in the throws of despair. But that is not all there is.
There is lavish abundance, outrageous grace, absurd joy. There is room to have fun. There is lightness to be enjoyed, there is frivolity to relish. There are dads that take their 10 kids to Disneyland on a whim, there are husbands who will secretly purchase a pair of Disneyland earrings and proudly wear matching Star Wars shirts with their nerdy wives, there are sisters who will run across an amusement park with you for the sake of one last ride, and brothers who will make the most outrageous faces as the rollercoaster zooms past a camera, and there is bag after bag of cotton candy. You can belly laugh, you can sing Disney songs at the top of your lungs, you can spin under a dozen colorful Chinese lanterns, you can dance your heart out after the ride drops you 150 feet and you are soaked from head to foot. You can stand in the rain with your entire family and watch lights and fountains work magic in front of your eyes. You can have fun.
“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is.” The Psalmist tells us. “Enjoy God.” Surely this enjoying isn’t all serious business and contributing to society as a productive adult. Surely it includes whimsy, childlike joy as we enjoy all the blessings and sheer goodness our God has set before us.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.