Crowds of tourists with fanny packs, flip-flops and sunglasses. The Florida sun beat upon my nose, leaving its lobster-like stain on my pale skin. The Mouse House beckoned, and we answered Mickey’s call.
Who could resist a free day at Disney? The Happiest Place on Earth. Apparently. As born and raised members of the Sunshine State, this wasn’t our first experience at the famous theme park. We’re seasoned veterans. Even Princess Ella had been numerous times. But Caleb? Only a few.
It was to be our son’s first real trip to the Mouse House, at least one he would be able to remember. Prince Charming and I were so excited. Scratch that. Excitement was only etched on my face. The Prince just loves me enough to smile and go along for the ride. He hates theme parks.
But since we were getting in free…And it was two weeks from our boy’s birthday…
I had visions of Caleb with joy eking out his pores. Meeting Mickey for the first time. Flying Dumbo through the air. Riding the same carousel I did as a child. Having “It’s A Small World” play in my head. Over and over and over.
The possibilities were endless. But my Court Jester threw us a wrench—an I-show-you-how-happy-this-place-really-is curveball. He was a GRUMP! Wait. What? You can’t be unhappy here. This is Disney for crying out loud! Which he did, cry out loud, I mean.
Caleb sported a Happy Birthday button all day. To which Disney employees would catch a glimpse of and make all kinds of celebratory comments to our son. Caleb, my bouncing ball of joy, scowled at every single person. I mean every. single. one.
Don’t get me wrong. The day was fantastic. We really did have an awesome time. And our little boy wasn’t grumpy all day. I mean, he laughed and giggled once we actually got on the rides. But the walking to and from? Grrr. Angry stomps.
And the highlight of our day? We finally did get to meet Mickey. What a beautiful, joyous moment. Caleb was mesmerized. And afterward, he never stopped smiling. Trouble is, we didn’t meet the famous mouse until 9:00…PM!
Take a deep breath in and release slowly. I sigh.
I’ve been struggling some in recent weeks. Filled with the blahs. Going through my days, with a ho-hum attitude. I live in anticipation of the weekends, the big events, the birthdays, the trips to Disney. But the day-to-day? I’ve been a grump. The walking to and from? Grrr. Angry stomps.
As I looked in the mirror this morning, concealing the purple-black bags under my tired eyes, I began to reflect on our recent trip to Disney and Caleb’s experience. I realized my life isn’t much different.
I mistakenly believe the momentary thrills in life to be all there is of joy. In essence, I have confused fleeting happiness with lasting joy.
There is nothing wrong with happiness. Happiness can bring forth joy. The two are interconnected. Joined. But not every part of life is happy. You can’t fly upon Dumbo or shooting aliens in Buzz Lightyear every day. These experiences are incredible, warming us to the point we eek out joy.
However, we still have to get from one ride to the other. It is the in between, which threatens our deepest attempts to find joy each day. Because happiness doesn’t always exist in the to and from.
But Joy can. And Joy does.
I have to wonder how our magical day might have been different if Caleb had met Mickey from the start? You see, for my son, Mickey is the core of Disney, its root.
God is the core of Joy. He is its essence. He is the Joy Giver.
Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The human experience is painful. It’s full of struggle and hardship. Our pores often eek out exhaustion and sadness. Happiness can be impossible to find.
Joy can exist even when there is no happiness. Because in the presence of the Father we find the fullness of joy—its satisfying abundance. And we cannot fully know Joy until we know the Joy Giver.
In the middle of my to and from days, I forget. I forget to find His presence. I forget to splay myself across His feet. But when I do, the heaviness of my soul lifts. The darkness that pervades my in between moments fades, giving way to the Light.
I may not always experience the happy, the light-hearted giggles, at His feet—life is sometimes full of just too much pain. But I am filled with the deeper, fuller Joy. The it-is-well knowledge that the Joy Giver overflows His abundant riches into my soul.
During the blah, the ho-hum days, Joy is in His presence, so there I must go.