Years ago Sonya and I and our teenage sons were at Disney World in mid-December. Sonya and I waited for a ferry one morning to take us back to our resort after an early morning walk around Magic Kingdom of looking around and having coffee together. The boys were still sound asleep. The blue sky surrounded us on the edge of the lake. The sun shined bright on the water, and the temperature was perfect.
A family came down to the docking area, clearly Southern like us; the accent tends to be a clear giveaway. A set of grandparents, parents, and an excited ten year old waited with us for the ferry. They asked directions about the boat’s exact destination because they had reservations for breakfast, where the young boy and family were going to eat with Disney characters.
The mom and son were clearly excited. The dad laughed nearby the boy and rubbed his son’s hair as he sat down on a bench. The grandmother smiled pleasantly at their surroundings, and giggled about something the boy said to her. The grandfather, neatly dressed in a pressed, plaid shirt stood stiffly off to the side waiting. He appeared removed. I looked at him, kind of nodded my head slightly in a greeting. The man glanced at me with nothing on his face but straight lips.
Sonya had told them the location of the restaurant, assuring them they had plenty of time to get there. The grandson grabbed his grandfather’s hand for a moment before bouncing off in another direction. The grandmother said tentatively something toward the grandfather. He quipped something about, “rather be on my bass boat fishing” loud enough for the whole family to hear. The mother kind of smiled with tight lips before turning away.
The grandson stopped dancing around and stood near the bench by his dad, who said something about how he would rather be bass fishing, too, no longer paying attention to his son. The grandmother’s face never shifted from her pleasant expression. But I watched their delight creep inward, if not stop, in the refusal of the grandfather to extend his heart into his own or anyone else’s joy. He said that he would rather be somewhere else. Of course his desire is okay. However, I tell you, the face, the tone, the words, the eyes, the movements of the people around him spoke poverty. The man was missing his life with his people.
I realize that there could be a myriad of other scenarios that could be possible. Nevertheless, lest we believe that the power of refusing our hearts to others is in some dramatic experience in some far off place, we need to check out our own daily impact on others nearby. Do I refuse to show up emotionally and spiritually in life with the people I love? When I heard the grandfather and saw the others’ reactions, their shuffling and shifting behaviors, I thought of times I shut down others who love me by refusing to care.
How often do we block our own blessings because of our demand for independence—independence from risk of heart, from sensitivity, care need, tenderness, interest, concern, loss, from courage, trust, or simply being bothered. How many champions of living fully and loving deeply never risk enough heart to show up in the arena of life? How often do we harden the soil of our hearts and in our callousness miss God’s seeds of life and love? I believe that the courageous of heart do not stop their hearts from entering the arena of love. They do not miss the joy. Let us not miss our joy.