Disneyland and the Power of Story

I went to Disneyland for the first time last week. Now, like many of us, I grew up watching 101 Dalmations, Aladdin and Lion King. I loved Peter Pan, and I can sing at least a few bars of “A Whole New World.” But I wouldn’t say that I love Disney. I thought some of their cartoons were scary, and I’ve not kept up with Disney into my adult years. (Although I do watch The Emperor’s New Groove on a regular basis. It’s hilarious.)

So, I was excited to go to Disneyland with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends, but I wasn’t ecstatic. But then I walked through the gates of the happiest place on earth — and I was transported.

Disneyland and California Adventure were actually quite stunning. For those who have never been (or for those who want to relive the magic), both parks are separated into multiple “lands.” Disneyland has Tomorrowland, which has a space theme. It also has Frontierland (think Davy Crockett), Fantasyland (think traditional Disney princesses and castles), Main Street U.S.A. (think Victorian candy shops), Adventureland (think jungle) and a few more. California Adventure has an area dedicated to Old Hollywood and an entire wharf reminiscent of an East Coast boardwalk carnival. It also has the town of Radiator Springs from the movie Cars and the world from A Bug’s Life. What was amazing was the detail of these parks. When you enter into a new “land” you are completely transported. The pavement changes, the garbage cans blend in, the costuming and food fits with the theme. And it is spotless. We were there during a very busy time — tons of people — yet there was never garbage on the ground, and the bathrooms were always tidy. Disney runs like a well-oiled machine.

What struck me the most — maybe because I love to read and write — was the story happening in each place. Each ride (it’s not even right to call it a “ride” — it’s more like an experience) tells a story. You are transported into the world of that narrative. For example, if you’re waiting in line to go on the Cars ride, you weave through a desert setting in Radiator Springs. If you’re waiting in line for Space Mountain, you feel like you’re entering a space ship. The line for Tower of Terror takes you through a 1930s hotel lobby. And as you go on a ride, you watch a story unfold. Pirates of the Caribbean floats you through much of what you see in the movie. The Indiana Jones ride tells a narrative. You leave each ride having basically experienced a mini Disney production.

The whole time I was at Disneyland, I was struck by the power of story. And it reminded me that this is exactly what God has given us in His Word. The Bible is God’s story — from beginning to end. There is a consistent narrative thread, built on the plan of redemption that God has put into place. The Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, the sacrifice of Isaac, the Exodus, David and Goliath, etc., are scenes in God’s amazing story. I’ve loved studying the Old Testament and writing my thesis at seminary because it has helped me connect all of these random stories into one big redemptive plan. God’s story is beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s vivid and bold. There are so many unexpected surprises, twists and turns. And, what is awesome to think about, is that it’s still going. You and I are a part of that narrative. God invites us to share the world’s need for Jesus’ sacrifice with those around us. He invites us to tell His story. And one day this chapter of God’s story will end, and a new one will begin. The new heavens and earth will be created. It will come full circle, when all that has been broken is restored. It is gorgeous. More stunning than Narnia, more beautiful than Disney. It is so exciting.

Disneyland was amazing. But it reminded me that all good stories point to something bigger — to God’s redemptive plan, to His compassion and forgiveness, to His calling us to truth, to His beautiful story.