I was so excited about our trip to Walt Disney World that as soon as we’d scheduled it, I ran right out and bought a travel guide to help me plan our trip. I’d never been to Disney so I wanted to make the most of every second we were there. When you go to the bookstore, though, you’ll find about five million guidebooks to the Disney parks, official, unofficial and everything in between. I think it took more time to pick the book than we actually spent at the Magic Kingdom.
But, finally, my diligent search paid off. I found a guidebook that had this incredible touring schedule that would allow me take advantage of traffic patterns and hit the attractions in just the right order to wait in the shortest lines. It was a masterpiece of efficiency.
Unlike the uneducated masses, I now had in my possession valuable insider information that would maximize every precious minute in Orlando.
I’m not going to lie to you. It wouldn’t be easy. I told my wife that we’d have to minimize time-wasters like bathroom breaks and meals. But if were committed, if we stayed on schedule, we would be pack in about three weeks worth of magical memories into five days.
Isn’t that what vacations are all about?
On the plane ride down, I studied the plan over and over until I could recite if from memory. I scrutinized the maps looking for some short-cut I’d missed that would allow me to shave off a few minutes getting from Space Mountain to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
I doubt the D-Day invasion had taken this much thought. But this was our one chance to go all out on our Disney experience. We had no children yet to slow us down, no grandparents who would have to stop for medication. No, we were young, lean and focused, like the elite Navy S.E.A.L.S. of Disney vacationers. We would conquer the crowds or die trying.
I can still the remember the thrill of rising at the crack of dawn that first morning in Florida, rushing to the gates of the Magic Kingdom and waiting for the doors to open. It was go time. And there was no turning back.
We blew past families right and left, edged out toddlers and little old ladies trying to get their picture taken with costumed characters, and raced straight to the headliner attractions whose lines could normally drain away hours from your day and torpedo any chance of seeing it all. We hit Splash Mountain first, then bam, off to Pirates of the Caribbean. Boom. Over to Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. And on and on!
I couldn’t believe it. The guide was working perfectly. We stayed at least three steps ahead of the disorganized crowds, those poor saps who were still trying to unfold their maps by the time I’d already seen half the park. Yes, it was glorious.
I think the phrase my wife used was “total lunacy,” but I could tell that she secretly admired my dedication and drive, and I was certain she would thank me for it later.
But the end of the day took an expected turn. At the end of the day, we did the unthinkable. We diverted from the plan. Gasp.
We were on our way out of the park when Christy spotted a hidden alleyway just off of Main Street. I wonder how many people like me had flown right by it and never even known it was there. Half-way down the alley, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, sat a picturesque bench. It was designed to look like an old-fashioned street vendor’s cart with colorful pots of flowers hanging from its shingled roof.
My wife led me by the hand back to the bench, and we just sat and drank in the charm of the venerable park. An afternoon thunderstorm had blown the heat out of the July night, replacing it with a cool breeze that rippled through the flowers. We didn’t talk much as we watched the crowds rush by oblivious to our private hideaway.
It was truly what Disney would call a magic moment, and it wasn’t in any guidebook or on any map I could find. In fact, when we would return years later, the alley and our bench were gone, replaced with more storefronts, though I could never remember for sure exactly where it had been. The fact that I can’t find it makes the memory even more magical year after year.
Ten years later I’m still tempted to rush through the hours of my day. My to-do lists have replaced my touring plan, but I find that my schedule is no less hectic. On the busiest of my days, when I’m checking off my agenda, and hurrying off to the next meeting or task, I sometimes think of that secret alley in Disney. I think about the fact that that was my one and only chance to stop there with my wife, and if I’d been too busy I would have no idea what I’d missed.
I think God fills every day with opportunities like this for those of us who would take the time to notice. The Bible speaks of God wanting to lead us beside quiet waters, where He can restore our soul, of moments where He calls us to be still and simply know that He is God. It’s in these truly magic moments that God whispers the wisdom and reassurance that all of us long to hear. It’s in these moments when we can know Him most intimately as Father and enjoy the life He created us to live. Ultimately, it’s in these moments that God shreds my best laid plans and reminds me of what really matters.