Last weekend I took my family to Legoland. My son has been asking for it all summer and we waited for Grandma to come and visit so she could join in on the fun. The park is definitely geared towards my son's age group (a lot of rides specifically said "ages 5-12). It was fun to see my son react with, "look, dad, it's made of all Legos!" There's just something about being little where the world seems so big. Theme parks take advantage of this by presenting everything as larger than life.
I remember going to Disney World at 5 or 6 years old and combining that trip with a visit to Kennedy Space Center. At Disney I remember Mission to Mars vividly- the chairs raising slightly to give you a feeling of positive g's then dropping back to give you a sensation of weightlessness all while looking up at a giant screen of space images as if we were looking ahead through a window. Visiting Kennedy right after, I remember returning to school convinced I had been to space. I couldn't wait to raise my hand to answer the question, "where did you go this summer?"
"As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!'" (Mark 13:1)
Did you visit any theme parks as a child? What rides were "larger than life"?
Of course, seeing it later as a teenager (the ride sadly closed in 1993), I could see through the "smoke and mirrors". It was obvious we never left the ground and the view out of the windows could not compare to what we could see in an IMAX.
Other rides seemed smaller, too. The roller-coasters weren't as fast, the loops, twists, and turns not as large. The animatronics weren't as realistic. I grew up and the "thrill ride" was no longer as thrilling.
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Have you ridden any of your favorite rides from your youth since you've grown up? Are they as fast, as large as you remember?
As a parent, the thrill is no longer found in the rides, but in my children's joy. I can bear (usually) waiting in line for an hour for a ride my kids are excited for. I can handle two days at Legoland and (mostly) ignore how cheesy everything is. Because it's not for me.
I stood back in wonder as I watched my children met a life-sized Mickey Mouse. I anxiously wait to hear what my son thought of the last ride he went on. And I can't wait to return. Their perspective becomes my perspective.
"And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:3)
"From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise " (Psalm 8:2)
Do you have children? Have you ever taken them to a theme park? What was their reaction the first time?
As adults, our lives can easily become so hectic that we take the thrills in life for granted. We feel grown up so we stop having fun. Summer is a great time to recapture the simple joys in life, but it's also a good time to remember that Jesus "came that [you] may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) That scripture can be twisted a number of ways, from a Prosperity Gospel (full means rich!) to asceticism (full life doesn't come until our resurrection and the world offers nothing). I believe the answer lies in the middle. No, we shouldn't get too comfortable here on this Earth, but we should still find joy in the life God has blessed us with.
"Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Do you see your life today as a thrill ride? Do you believe Jesus has given you "life to the full"?
Yesterday I went to the park with my kids. I rode on a twisting swing-like thingy with my son. It wasn't fast and it wasn't large, but my son was scared to death of falling off and I almost threw up. But it was really fun!
Today continues this summer's 'virtual small group' (VSG in the tags). I hope you come back as I take this season to reflect on the wonders of God's creation, share vacation stories, etc, with the prayer that we come out of this season closer to God than how we came into it.