Alright, time to tell you about my favorite part of going to a Disney park. It's not the theming, though I love it and feel transported to a happy place. It's not the rides, though I love them and get giddy like a little kid when I am loading into a ride. It's not the shopping, though Disney has taken most, if not all, of my wife and I's money. And it isn't even the shows or characters, although those are breathtaking and whimsical. No, for me, the best part of Disney is the food. If you have experienced the wonder of Disney food, checked out Disney Food Blog or listened to The Bippity Boppity Bros talk about their favorite foods and snacks at Disney parks, you know what I'm talking about.
I remember my honeymoon pretty clearly. My wife and I got married on October 20, 2012, and we had an amazing honeymoon: a week in Orlando. We got to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, followed by 6 days at Walt Disney World.
It was amazing! We ran around the Magic Kingdom, where my wife fell in love with Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom, I fell in love with Mickey's Philharmagic, and we both were blown away by the parade during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween when the Headless Horsemen came galloping by. The Animal Kingdom was great, with the Tree of Life being crazy cool and Expedition Everest being exhilarating. Hollywood Studios was decent, but the weakest of the parks. But EPCOT...EPCOT was sweet. Mission: Space was so cool, but even better was the Food and Wine Festival! Crazy, creative food from all over the world, and all for snack credits. It was like a taste of heaven. Except, there was something even better, something even cooler, something even more delicious: Victoria and Albert's. That one dinner with my wife is still the highlight of the honeymoon, and one of the best experiences of my life!
What is it about Disney food that makes it so wonderful and magical to me? This was something that I started thinking about a couple of weeks ago when my dear friend (and sister's father-in-law) Don Allsman was visiting. We were talking about the trip we are all going to take to WDW in 2021, and I teased Don about how we are opposites: for me, the food is the best part of the trip, and I think he could just survive on nutrition bars.
And then he said something that changed my world: he said that there was one food at Disney World he was in love with: The Cheshire Cat Tail.
Now, there is something you need to know about Don Allsman - he loves sweets, and he loves unnaturally colored foods. The greatest gift we ever gave him was when my wife made him a rainbow cake. The way he talked about the Cheshire Cat Tail reminded me about the way that he talks about discipleship: passionate, whimsical, and with a hint of otherworldly longing. The next morning I saw this post on Instagram and freaked out about how amazing that looked. And it got me thinking: why is Disney food so good? Why is it so magical? Why do I utterly love it so much? And I realized it: it's because Disney food is Magically Delicious.
Style and Substance
It's magical because it is packed with creativity and love. You can tell that the people who are creating this food are encouraged to create something wonderful and magical. They are called to bring the fullness of their creativity and whimsy to bear and make something that people would not expect. But it's not just theming. If the outside looks good, but it tastes like dung, it's worthless. The food at Disney isn't just themed well, it's incredibly delicious. Some of the best meals I've ever had have been at Disney restaurants. They have style and substance. And at the end of the day, there's a lesson here for Christians and the Church.
A Life of Substance
When you look at the Scriptures, the life that Christ calls the Church to is something unbelievable. Humanity is called to be something special - the dirt of the Earth formed by the Hand of the Triune God and infused with His Breath of Life. We are crafted in His image to reflect Him, rule with Him, and be with Him. We are made diverse and wondrous. We are forged for creativity and relationship. We are designed for majesty and eternity.
But we are broken. We are fallen. We are divided. We are hurting. We are lonely, anxious, depressed. We are less than what we are meant to be. We are sinners, separated from God, from each other, from our world, and even from ourselves.
Yet, the message of the Gospel is that God has called us to be what we were always meant to be. That God has done the impossible! By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the power of eternity has broken into time and breaks the powers of sin and death that oppress us. We can be so much more than what we are: we can experience the life abundant that we were created for. We can live without the fear of death binding us. We can live delicious lives, full of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
There is a depth of substance to our faith. There is a deliciousness to our lives. So what's the problem? It's not that the things above are false, it's that most people experience two different extremes of Christians. I'm going to call them Sprinkled Stones and Dull Donuts.
The first group I'll call the Sprinkled Stones. Many Christians will agree with everything I said about the glory of the Gospel above...on Sundays. They will go to Church, sing the songs, listen to the sermons, say their amens, and then go out and live like everyone else. And that's the problem. These are people who don't realize that the good news of the Gospel means that every aspect of their life is going to change - that salvation means justification and sanctification.
They have the sprinkles of "religion", so they think they are good. But they aren't tasty. Instead of a warm, Spirit-fruit filled donut, they are just a hard stone. Instead of love, there is racism and hate. Instead of joy, there is bitterness and envy. Instead of peace, there is anxiety and grudges. Instead of patience, there is judgment and anxiety. Instead of kindness, there is selfishness and entitlement. Instead of goodness, there is greed and selfish ambition. Instead of gentleness, there is harshness and violence. Instead of self-control, there is gluttony, division, and gossip.
Christians get surprised that people abandon the Church, or have a bad taste in their mouths about Christians. Well, the main reason is sprinkled stones. People don't like biting into stone. It's damaging. It's painful. And it's gross. Even Jesus hated this. He called the religious people whose hearts were hard hypocrites. He had no time for them. When He dealt with sinners, He had nothing but gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness. When He dealt with hypocrites, He had nothing but harshness and condemnation.
The other extreme of Christians I call the Dull Donuts. These are men and women who are unbelievably delicious! They are full of love and joy, peace and patience. They are sweet and whimsical and humble. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world - but there is no way you will ever experience that.
These are people who are often crippled by the lies of the Enemy or just the pain and brokenness of life in a fallen world. Some are so despondent when they sin that they believe neither God nor man could love or accept them. So they let no one in. Some don't truly experience God's love and acceptance, so they hate themselves and never truly offer the wonder and creative service that God has made them for to the world. Some are people-pleasers to the point that they compromise their convictions to be liked and accepted. Some are so depressed that it takes all their energy just to get through the day - let alone shine brightly for the Kingdom. And some are just so shy and introverted that they cannot bring themselves to show the world just how wonderful God's work in them truly is. Some are just so scared of rejection, that they will never share the Lord they love with anyone.
If the world saw these people, they would not think of Christians as full of hate, hypocrisy, and hysteria. Unfortunately, they aren't shiny like Tamatoa, so they aren't noticed.
Few of us are either of the extremes. But I think a lot of us can see parts of ourselves in both of these. We are sinful, broken people. We are, for lack of a better phrase, natural. But, the Gospel is supernatural! It is powerful and beautiful. It is transformative and engaging. Men and women can be reconciled to God, to each other, and even to the broken world. Race, sex, economics, nationality aren't points of division, but wondrous frosting that makes a simple donut look like a Cheshire Cat Tail. Gifts, abilities, and talents aren't things that separate us and create oppressive hierarchies, but tools that fit together and complement each other so that we can do more awesome things than we could ever imagine. In a world fraught with violence, pain, suffering, and division, we can be the people who are the aroma of Christ, the scent of the Age to Come, the fragrance of the New Heavens and the New Earth. We can be and need to be Magically Delicious.