Despite my advanced years, I had never been to Disney World, Disneyland, or anything Disney. As I waited in line for an hour and 15 minutes (supposedly one of their slow days) to go on my first ride, I grumbled. “I do not like waiting in lines for an hour to do something for 5 minutes. No wonder I have never been here. “ Finally, we were boarded, strapped in and ready to go. The lights dimmed. The seat tilted. My feet dangled and my heart raced. I am suddenly soaring over the tops of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I actually lift my long legs so I don’t crash into the snowy peaks. I smell elephants far below me in the African Savannah. What? I am misted by a whale and watch polar bears frolic in the Antarctic. It is amazing! “Let’s do it again.” I grab hold of my husband’s arm like a 6-year-old version of myself. It was magic!
The astonishing phenomena of Disney World was that it brought out the little girl in me. Not the girl I had once been, but the child I had always wanted to be-free, safe, and happy- joyously lapping up the incredible sensations around me. I disappeared into the tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of different lands in Epcot Center. At Magic Kingdom, I was engulfed into a spectacular and spooky world of the underground where pirates dwell. I had an incredible and touching view of the many children of the world while in a a small boat singing, “It’s a Small World.” I could hear the passengers all around me speaking in foreign languages and I smiled thinking of the truth of this classic song. I danced in the streets with hundreds of others when a Christian band appeared on stage in the middle of a street singing, “How Great is Our God” and “What a Beautiful Name”. Entrancing glory! Finally, as the sun went down and we rounded a corner to glimpse the iconic and magical sight of the Cinderella castle lit up with blue and purple crystals, I cried a little. At that moment for me, Disney World truly became “the happiest place on Earth.”
But…I could have hated it- navigating the long lines, trying to literally move among the strollers and bodies, listening to tired children over- sugared and over- excited screaming their frustrations to parents who had reached their tolerance levels as well, paying high prices, and invoking the sheer patience it takes to get something to eat amidst the hungry crowds. I could have hated it, but there was something so breathtaking about the beauty and joy that had been so painstakingly created around me that left me anticipating another opportunity to visit this amazing place again.
When I got home, I wondered about the choice that I faced in Disney World- the choice to love an experience rather than hate it, to look at the good vs. the hassle of things, to make a conscious effort to focus on the positive rather than the negative. It reminded me of a prayer I said for many years when I was teaching . As I walked through the doors of the school (often, but not every day), I would pray, “Lord, please give me unconditional love for each and every child in my care. Help me to see the good in them”. Often, this became spiritual magic- not immediately turning a troubled child into a happy angel, but changing this teacher’s heart to a more loving one with every student. I am thankful for each time the Lord answered this prayer- sometimes in miraculous ways.
It works in other areas of my life as well, but it is definitely a choice. There have been periods of my life when all I could see was what was wrong with my job, my husband, everyone the Lord had placed in front of me, including me. In fact, choosing to see the good in me was often the hardest choice. The result of this kind of “see the bad” thinking was a kind of misery and I am not a person who likes to be miserable!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV.
When I choose to apply God’s formula to how I look at people and situations, it is like waving a wand over the unhappiness in my soul and transforming it into a place of peace and joy. It is an action I have to choose and many times I forget or fail or refuse to make the choice. However, if I “see the good” over and over again, I have observed a remarkable disappearing act. The frustrations, hurts, worries, irritations, and day to day grumble-worthy events simply grow smaller or evaporate. The people I come in contact with each day mystically become shinier. Magically, many of my long-held resentments or fears can actually (Poof ) be gone.
I am not stating that to “see the good” is easy. I am not trying to suggest that it is a simple fix to real problems. I am not encouraging being blind to the harmful. Believe me, I know the pitfalls of that! I could not wander aimlessly through the cobble streets of Disney World with my eyes focused only on the beauty above me. I needed to check my feet often for the possible dangers of small children to trip over or strollers to land in. I had to be aware of what was happening and protect myself from concrete dangers. It is the same in real life. Looking for the good, does not mean excusing or ignoring the bad. It only means evaluating with a different eye, thinking about what is praiseworthy- looking for the good as a deliberate daily practice that can help when challenged with tough times. Also, when it comes to me, I can create a habit of acknowledging those characteristics that make up the good side of me. In addition, I can choose to believe the many wonderful things God says about me. See “Who God Says I Am-Study” for more on this.
At one point during our visit to Disney World an impromptu concert took place on the stage of Cinderella’s castle. Anna and Elsa, in full princess splendor, were singing the classic, “Let It Go” from the movie, Frozen. As people crowded in around us to watch the show, stepping on toes, and blocking the view, I decided to make the magical choice of looking around for the good.
Next to me, a small girl was perched on the shoulders of her 6 foot something father. It looked high from her perspective, but she seemed secure as the man had both arms firmly attached to her legs. It was the look on her face that transfixed me. She was entranced- her eyes completely focused on the princesses. Her grin was ecstasy and her eyes were glistening. She was enthralled with the moment. I poked my husband and pointed for him to glance at the little girl’s face. We smiled at each other. The joy found there is a taste of the joy Jesus wants for us now and when we see Him again someday. Now that is magic!
You make known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
Thank you for joining me. I appreciate your patience as I take intermissions from my original story. Next week’s “chapter” will be a hard one for me to write and share. Your sweet support makes it easier. Please hang in there. I promise the story (even with its many twists and turns) is an encouraging tale of God’s grace and mercy. Thank you. Scroll down to the mini-companion study for more on “seeing the good”.