Disneyland, mass killings and the unquenchable thirst in us all

My family and I went to Disneyland last week as a Christmas/birthday celebration courtesy of my (extremely generous) mom. We drove there on Monday; stayed at a hotel within walking distance; visited both parks (including California Adventure Park) on Tuesday and Wednesday; and then drove home on Thursday. I must admit that I love Disneyland for their rides and atmosphere. However, I felt some sadness as we left the hotel to return home. The trip was over and we were driving back to reality.

Then we awoke Friday to the horrible news of what happened in Connecticut. What a change from the “happiest place on earth.” Every detail that emerged was worse than the last and, as they started to tell us about who the victims were, it was hard not to get teared up. It’s especially tough to stomach because of my experiences as a father with a daughter only a few years younger than most of the victims. I am convinced there isn’t much worse than losing your small child to a sudden, violent death during the holidays.

So many lives were destroyed. The lives of their families will have a gaping hole that will probably never be filled no matter the healing or comfort brought by their friends, family, community or the passage of time. And those still alive–the other children and their families; the remaining school staff; the first responders–will not be the same either. Those kids’ innocence is gone. Evil won the battle. Questions, anger and grief remain.

The contrast between Disneyland and the killings is so vast that it made two things very obvious to me.

There is a longing within that everyone strives for, yet no one can achieve.

At Disneyland they try their best to create the happiest place on earth. The park is kept very clean and the atmosphere aims to transport us out of our normal life and into something different and exciting. On the day it opened in 1955, Walt Disney gave a short speech.

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

And though I really do enjoy my trips to Disneyland, I always leave the “magic” behind. It’s a temporary fix that doesn’t last. We long for something to bring us wholeness but it’s elusive. The fulfillment offered by so many things aroundus ultimately leave us wanting more. No theme park, piece of technology, job, living situation, etc. will satisfy us fully.

We can’t fix the problem.

It’s obvious to say this now after what happened on Friday, but the world is broken and evil permeates it. We can make changes that will improve our situation but in the end the problem is so deep that we must admit that we cannot ultimately fix it. This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to make changes, but I do think it means we need to approach the issues before us with humility knowing that we are very limited in our wisdom and power.

In the Christian view, neither of these things are a surprise. Scripture teaches that we are a desperately broken people living in a desperately broken world without a hope of fixing the problem. But it also teaches that God’s plan was to redeem the world and make right all that’s been wrong. And, honestly, that’s what Christmas is about (in fact, children were massacred shortly after Jesus was born). The lights and trees and presents and egg nog is all fluff that we enjoy, but I hope we Christians keep in mind that our hope is ultimately in Jesus. My we take the gospel and be a comfort to those who ache with grief, and pray that the hope of Christ and his restoration is brought into our world.


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