I took myself to Disney World last week, just for the morning. Last week was the anniversary of the passing of my grandfather and each year it hits me a little differently. This year, I decided I would spend the day doing something that brought me joy, so naturally, I headed straight for the Magic Kingdom.
And let me just say, as an aside, it took me YEARS to get to a place where I would give myself permission to just take a break. And it still feels a little weird, like I’m playing hooky on the day of a big test. But when I take a minute to actually TAKE A MINUTE and show myself some grace and give myself some space, I walk away a much better woman. The laundry might still be in a pile. The breakfast dishes might stay in the sink a little longer. But none of that matters when we are talking about taking care of yourself in those moments you sense it might all come crashing down. So, there’s my sage wisdom for the year: Take a break every now and then.
On my break I went to the Magic Kingdom. I chose the Magic Kingdom because, as much as I love the other parks, and honestly spend more time there than at the big castle, the Magic Kingdom is just that: magic. And I needed a little magic on this day. I had planned this day the week prior so I had my fast passes lined up and I was ready to tackle all of the sites and rides of Disney that my little family isn’t so thrilled about. I got to NOT go to The Country Bear Jamboree, which my family has an inexplicable love for and I find ghastly inappropriate and downright annoying with all those catchy southern tunes. I got to attempt to see one of my favorite attractions, The Hall of Presidents, but sadly was turned away by an employee who announced that the hall was closed due to the current installation of President Trump. So I got Trumped. But I also got to ride one of my favorites, Space Mountain.
I had been looking forward to this all week. Since we acquired our Disney passes last April I had yet to visit this spectacular ride from my youth. Greg isn’t a huge roller coaster fan and Levi isn’t tall enough so today was going to be my day, my one shot to ride it.
I climbed aboard my assigned space rocket and was thrilled to see that I was in the front seat, but you know, tried not to smile too big because I was riding this thing all by myself and I didn’t want to look like too much of a dork. And then the ride began. And then approximately 4 minutes later, I exited my space craft and tried very hard to not throw up.
It turns out that I might officially be too old for Space Mountain. Not only did the sudden dips and slides make me feel incredibly nauseous but I found myself legitimately terrified the entire ride. Not because I thought I might actually come to harm on a Disney ride, but because the element of Space Mountain that gave me thrills years ago, gave me chills this time around. The entire ride takes place in the dark. Like, dark dark. You get vague ideas about where you are and cool little shooting stars above your head give you some direction but mostly it’s just dark. And the thrill of Space Mountain is that you can’t anticipate where you are headed at all. When I was younger, I loved the vulnerability of this unknown variable. But as a real adult, I felt a little bit panicked that I couldn’t physically brace myself for each twist and dip. It physically hurt to attempt to predict which direction my body would be thrust into next.
I got off the ride and tried real hard not to look as sick and as old as I felt. I found a bench and took off the sweatshirt that was now making me WAY too warm and I sat down and recovered like a little old lady. As I sat there trying to comprehend what in the holy hell had just happened, I became more and more aware of my need for control in my life. And for whatever reason in that moment, one of my New Year’s resolutions came to mind.
One of the habits that I am trying to stir up in my life is an active prayer life. I have never been good at it. Despite the fact that most of the people in my life that have influenced me the most or that I have admired the most, have all been men and women with a known reputation of prayer, I could just ever get the rhythm of it all. Yes. I believe that prayer works. Yes. I know that prayer is how we talk to God and how we have an actual relationship Him. I know all of the Sunday School answers about prayer. But my own prayer life always felt flat and two dimensional. It still feels fake and forced most of the time.
And yet. I can’t deny that prayer is a powerful element of my faith. And as I sat on that bench, reliving the terror of Space Mountain, I realized I actually fear prayer. I fear it not only because it is difficult and foreign to me but because, to actually take on a lifestyle, a posture of prayer, I must fling myself into the darkness. Into the silence. Into a place where I have absolutely no control.
I fear prayer because I can’t control God’s end of the conversation. And although I have seen Him respond to His people in mighty ways, I have also seen Him let prayers go unanswered. Or worst yet, I have heard Him be silent at what feel like crucial times calling for His action. An active prayer life means placing yourself in the rocket, strapping yourself in and then hurtling yourself into the darkness. A darkness where you are unable to brace yourself for God’s reply because that’s not the point. The point of prayer is not to present your needs and desires to God and have Him spit out what you requested. The point of prayer is to present your needs, desires, worries, requests, praises, anger, joy, etc. to a living and breathing Being who will then take you on a wild ride across tracks you can’t even see. Some of your prayers will go unanswered and you will be flung to the left. Some of them will be answered exactly as you were desiring and you will feel yourself climbing the rails, soaring to new heights. And sometimes, you will only hear silence in response to your pleas, and you will feel yourself plummeting into the darkness.
But. BUT. The tracks never cease to hold you up. They never let you fall without their firm steel keeping you from crashing. The same is true of the God we hold our conversations with. He never lets us really crash. Even in the times of silence, you can feel the strength of His hand hovering in the darkness if you push past the fear and uncertainty.
Prayer is a powerful aspect of our faith and right now I am learning that prayer will sometimes resemble a roller coaster I can’t control. And because of that, I will feel fear from time to time. The world has taught me that fear is an appropriate reaction to power. But when I remember that I don’t live for this world, that I don’t serve this world, that this world doesn’t control the ride, I am reminded that I am perfectly safe the entire time. The tracks never wear away and fear can just go vomit in the trash can at the end of the ride.