The Happiest Place on Earth

Posted by on 03/12/2014 in:

I don’t travel to new places very often; I love being at home. A couple weeks ago I broke the mold and traveled to southern California to spend time with my sister, and we spent a Saturday at Disneyland. The day was a happy whirl of rides, lines, ice cream, and warm sunshine, but around 3:30 that afternoon, when the park was at its most busy and we couldn’t walk without bumping into someone, I began to feel the effects of the crowds. As a child, I might have pitched a fit. But as such tantrums are not tolerated with adults (however much we might want to), I agreed with my sister that a half hour break in the car would be good for both of us. I recognized unmistakable symptoms of being overtired, irritable, and, in this new environment with so many unknown faces, a little fragile, too.

The next day, my sister and I visited my grandma who had recently suffered a minor stroke. My sister and I helped her from her wheelchair to the hospital bed, and she lay there helplessly, unable to use her arms to prop herself up on the bed. My sister and the nurse hoisted her up, and we stood over her, looking down.  She grabbed our hands, hers still surprisingly firm and strong, and said to us, “I’m sorry you have to see me at my worst.” I smiled at her and squeezed her hand, but my insides wrinkled uncomfortably as I recalled the day before, overwhelmed in the happiest place on earth, ready to burst into tears like a petulant child. My grandma’s worst didn’t seem that much different than my worst.

Two weeks later, I sat in the Ash Wednesday service at church and listened to the words of invitation to the observance of Lent:Wooden cross isolated on white

“Friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover, we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes. This ancient sign speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life and marks the penitence of this community.”

As the sign of the cross was marked on my forehead with ashes, I was struck by the troubling paradox in the words of invitation, new life and frailty in the same breath. It’s like Lent itself, a season marked by penitence and fasting, which is puzzlingly placed at the time of year when the created world is bursting into new life. The grass becomes green again, the trees straighten towards the light, and flowers emerge from the cold ground.

I realized as I felt the ash on my forehead that my grandma and I both represented the paradox of Lent. My grandma, whose earthly body is failing, is headed for the new life that awaits us in heaven, where the earthly wear and tear fades away forever. While still young and healthy, I have my own frailty in wrestling with the sin and brokenness that are inherent to human life. And yet, the promise of new life still extends to me in the culmination of Lent, that glorious triumph of the cross of Christ. I like Disneyland and all, but surely living in the light of new life, even with the shadow of death, is the happiest place on earth.

6 Comments

  • Jason says:

    Great message Elizabeth,

    Even in our realization of the frailty and uncertainty of this life it is great to know that we have hope in Christ.

    Hebrews 6:17-20 (NASBStr)
    In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…

    That He is preparing a wonderful place for us to spend eternity with Him.

    John 14:2-3 (NASBStr)
    In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

    But also that He came to give us glimpses of life “here and now”. Even in the midst of the trials and battles that we face now, the life that He offers is made available.

    John 10:10 (NASBStr)
    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

    God Bless.

  • Whit says:

    I have paid for some books but they will not download. Every time I try to download one that I have purchased it wants to charge me again. Can you help me with this please?

  • Mary says:

    Those are some wise words. Jesus said to deny ourselves and follow. When we get to a place where the end is near we are on the cusp of what we are created for. To live eternally with our maker. A place which must seem difficult for the person living in the old warn out shell. My dad is 89 and I know he is feeling it. Thanks for your blog.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Mary–Thanks for your thoughts! I pray that you have sweet time with your dad while he’s still with you. Glad the blog was a blessing to you!

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