By Elaine Knudtson
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
I first went to Disneyland in 1968 with my parents and five brothers and sisters. I remember the feeling of walking across the hot asphalt through the front gates into the Magic Kingdom. I even remember the red plaid shorts I was wearing—Mom had bought us all new clothes for the occasion. Dad purchased a book of tickets for the attractions, from A through E. We quickly learned the importance of the “E” tickets and planned our day around those rides. It was truly magical, and when we left, I knew there would never be anything as wonderful as Disneyland again.
I had a similar experience the first time Paul and I went to Europe. Those 17 days in July of 2004 exceeded all expectations as we saw Big Ben, the Tower of London, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Mont St. Michel, Paris, and the Eiffel Tower twinkling at midnight. I dreamed about returning to my happy place all year long, and Europe has become a favorite destination ever since.
We crave satisfaction and joy. When we find it, we want to repeat it again, and again, and again. My grandsons love to say “again” and “more”. We watched “Thomas and Friends” on the ipad innumerable times this summer when we got together in San Diego for a family reunion. But, even though they can’t get enough of it now, if I offered them the same experience in a year or two, I doubt whether it would have the same effect.
The economic term “Law of Diminishing Returns” states that there is a maximal rate of profit, production, benefits, etc., that beyond a certain point fails to increase proportionately, with added investment, effort, or skill. (dictionary.com)
Doing it “again” and “again” eventually proves to be dissatisfying.
I have been to Disneyland many times since 1968; the last time being this summer with our children and grandchildren. My joy now comes from watching the youngest children enjoy the experience for the first time. For me, the wonder is gone. Even Europe disappoints if I go there just to see the sights.
“The Magic Kingdom Awaits” by Elaine Knudtson
I quiver waiting for the morning when the gates open and I can enter the Magic Kingdom.
I’ve heard of its delights; the music welcomes me as I walk towards the entrance.
The senses are ignited by colors, flowers, anticipation of what is to come.
They say it’s the happiest place on earth and I am in need of such a place.
But the glory begins to fade with the long lines,
And the passing hours.
I may never come back.
Can I squeeze this into a bottle and drink a few drops of happiness each day as a reminder of this moment?
Is this the Magic Kingdom I’m longing for,
or is it only a foreshadow of the gates I enter with you—
where my longings are met; my hunger and thirst quenched.
I am the child you bring into your celebration of everlasting joy.
Do my eyes sparkle?
Do I sit still in awe of the beauty and grace that meets me there?
Can I take it with me when the moment passes?
Don’t leave me disappointed and alone.
I long for those fleeting glimpses of eternity you bring to the hours of my life,
when my senses are tuned to your presence, love, peace and forgiveness.
It is not because I’m old that I long for you, but because I am still the child,
waiting at the gate,
for you to open the door and invite me into the joy of today.
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Everything loses its novelty and appeal eventually, except God.
What doesn’t leave me dissatisfied is the “bread”, the “living water”, the “new creation” that I experience through community, family and quiet contemplation. When that is broken, nothing makes me happy for long. We were created for so much more. C. S. Lewis describes this best in his speech on the “Weight of Glory”.
“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. . . We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. . .For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. . .
Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Jesus came to complete us; to fill that ache, with his presence. We find it in solitude, in looking for him in the commonplace—in nature, in community, in chance encounters with other pilgrims, in prayer, and in the living word.
I used to think that old people went to church because they were afraid to die and they needed to be close to God at the end. Now I know that those who endure are there because they have found that life disappoints, but Jesus satisfies. This is the great discovery of a lifetime. . . Nothing satisfies but Jesus.