Disney World and “The War Room”: They Both Left Me Wanting More
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.
So says the first stanza of the Walt Disney Theme Song.
My 15-year-old daughter roped a few of those stars, pressed them into her eyes, blinked a couple of times at her daddy and wished for her first trip to Disney World. That is how I came to spend the first week of October in Walt Disney’s imagination. Let me tell you, Walt’s imagination is a grand and wonderful place to be.
It is said that Walt Disney World is the place where dreams come true, that its Kingdom is the most magical place on Earth. Everyone may not agree, but during that week, I raised a ginormous, Mickey Mouse shaped rice krispie treat high above my head to give it my enthusiastic vote.
Walt’s Kingdom is bright and beautiful and the magic of pixie dust hangs in the air. The muck and mess that litters life outside the Magic Kingdom has no place inside it. Even the lids of the garbage receptacles are cleaned daily.
When we walked through the gate and Tessa saw Cinderella’s castle for the first time, the stars in her eyes lit up with a brightness to rival the fireworks we would see later that night. It is, indeed, a fairy tale kingdom that draws the princess in every girl into a world where magic conquers all and the hero always comes to the rescue.
But I have to say that I wanted to see more.
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Under the Magic Kingdom, there are a series of tunnels called utilidors. They are hidden utility corridors that service the life that goes on behind the scenes of the World above. Food is prepared in them and delivered to the vendors above. Garbage is removed through them without being seen by the guests. Locker rooms and cafeterias for employees are housed in the tunnels and rehearsals for the shows featured above go on there.
Everything in the park is monitored in those corridors: the sound systems, fire and child protection systems, attraction controls, audio-animatronic figures and parade preparations.
Most intriguing to me, the Magic Kingdom employees move through the park using the utilidors. Characters in costume can travel from one park world to another without upsetting the illusions of the guests. That means that a cowboy from Frontierland will never be seen moseying out of context through the world of Tomorrowland.
Walt Disney refused to allow anyone under 16 to enter the utilidors. He was convinced that no child should enter an area where he/she could see two Mickey Mouses at one time or perhaps a Donald Duck without a head. It is in those tunnels that Disney characters can sit down, prop up their aching feet and let the smiles that are ever-present in the world above fall away for awhile.
Life in the utilidors is the reality behind the dream and I wanted to see it.
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Its main characters, Tony and Elizabeth, have good jobs and an upper middle-class lifestyle. But their marriage is falling apart and their daughter is being neglected. Elizabeth meets Miss Clara, an elderly woman who speaks frankly and teaches her the power of prayer in the fight to keep her family together. Miss Clara shows Elizabeth a closet in her house that she had long ago emptied of clothing and plastered with scrawled prayers and scripture passages. It is her “War Room”, the place where she goes to pray in secret.
Eventually, Elizabeth empties her closet and creates her own “War Room” where she learns to pray for her husband and her marriage. The grace she offers Tony, has an effect on him. He repents and prays for God’s help. In the end, the family is reconciled. The “War Room” no longer belongs to Elizabeth. All three members of the family pray there together.
Best I can tell, Christian audiences love the movie. (It is hard not to adore Miss Clara.) In my theater, I heard “Amens” coming from all corners of the room accompanied by the laughter that flows from antics that are familiar. (What parent has not found a stuffed bunny in their fridge at one time or another?)
But as the movie credits rolled, I wanted more than had been on the screen.
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There is a spiritual place that exists on a plane above this world. Like the Magic Kingdom’s utilidors, it is hidden from the physical eye. But every Christian has access to it. It is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells and if we keep our spiritual eyes on it, we see Jesus. Every work of God in our lives happens there.
You would think that it would be a place of order. But I find it confusing and unpredictable. From where I stand, I see very little in the spiritual world that can be explained by a blanket statement . . . including prayer.
What is prayer?
Best I can tell, it is an oration of praise and the long diatribe of a soul in pain and one word spoken in faith. It is whispered in a pew and shouted to a group, screamed to the Heavens and laughed on the wind. It is sung in our hearts and cried from our knees.
Does God answer prayer?
He speaks. And He remains quiet.
Does a prayer of faith spoken in Jesus’s name produce a response from God? Does He heal our sickness, increase our finances or put our broken homes back together?
It seems to me that He does . . . except for when He doesn’t.
God can not be scripted.
My dear friend prayed when her marriage fell apart. She prayed and she cried and then she prayed again. God came to her with comfort but her marriage ended in divorce.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law prayed for many years with strong and sincere faith that their youngest son be healed of diabetes. He died at the age of 38 from diabetes related health issues leaving a wife and three young children.
A former pastor and his wife, one of my first mentors, had a daughter who was born deaf. When she was an infant, they gathered a group of church members to pray for special wisdom and strength to rear her. He gave her healing instead . . . healing for which they had not prayed.
Prayer is powerful. But it isn’t a series of buttons we punch to elicit the response we want from God.
That being said, The War Room has a good message. It gives Christians hope. As we watch God reunite a broken family, we realize that our broken pieces can also be put back together.
Still, it left me yearning for more. His children have access to so much more than a good message.
In that hidden spiritual place above our world, the one where Christians sit down at the feet of Jesus, prop up their aching feet and let the smiles that mask the pain of this world fall away, there is His presence. In that place, God picks up the mess of our failures and redeems them for something good. In that place, He gives Himself to widows as a husband and to children as a father. In that place, He glorifies Himself in ways greater than we can image.
Sometimes God gives us what we pray for and sometimes He does not. But always, in that spiritual place, His arms are around us . . . to protect us . . . or wipe the tears from our eyes . . . or give us a “You did real good!” pat on the butt . . . or push us to take our next steps forward in our walk with Him.
That is what I want. I want to be reminded of the place where His arms are.