Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gladness and Singleness of Heart, Disney Princesses and Sehnsucht

Tuesday was a strange day. It started when the sweet girl walked into the kitchen, looking decidedly green (and two days before St. Patrick's Day)! "I don't feel very well," she said in a wobbly voice. Five minutes later she'd thrown up, and we found ourselves under the flu bus for the rest of the day.

It's strange how a truly sick day with your child -- not a sniffle day, or a slightly sore throat day, but a truly miserable, nausea-coming-in-waves-can-barely- crawl-off-the-couch-when-I-have-to day -- can narrow your focus dramatically. As I held my little girl's hair while she retched, bathed her face with a warm cloth, scoured the homeopathic remedies, checked our stock of ginger ale (and asked my dear husband to get more), any thought of all the other things I "had to do" that day quickly fled. Apparently I didn't have to do them after all. Apparently what I needed to do was shower my little girl with care and TLC.

There's something freeing, humbling and purifying about that. I don't mean I'm glad she was sick -- far from it! I always feel badly when I see my little one (or anyone else's) sick or in pain. But I do feel like Jesus had something to say to me during this illness, something I needed to hear during this Lenten journey.

I can put things aside. And I can focus more single-heartedly and with greater purity of heart than I usually think I can. The world doesn't stop turning if I don't do my multi-task routine for a day or two. When God puts something in my path that truly screeches me to a halt and calls for my heart's complete attention, He gives me the power and strength to seriously give the task (whether it's loving a child or something else) that full attention.

And he wants me to realize that sometimes it's perfectly all right...perhaps even do that period, full-stop, wholehearted attention thing when it's not a crisis or emergency. Perhaps even that it could be a good thing to set aside time just to do it. For Him. Because. Of course I know he also knows that he's put me in the midst of a busy life, and called me to serve others -- and that through serving others, I am loving and serving him. But what if I just let everything go for an hour sometime, just because? Just to focus my mind, heart, attention and all on Him?

Something to ponder.


And then there were the Disney princesses.

I told you Tuesday was a weird day. Since the sweet girl was feeling too miserably sick even to hold a book in her hand, and since my voice wouldn't hold out to read aloud all day, I suggested movies. I know sometimes movies can help take your focus off nausea, and she was really struggling with that. So I let her pick what she wanted to watch/doze through. What she picked was, in her later words, "two princesses and a pig." Cinderella, Little Mermaid, and Charlotte's Web.

This isn't the post for me to go into my ambivalence over the world of Disney princesses. Suffice it to say that there are good things about Disney animation that I enjoy and admire, and I don't mind my daughter watching and enjoying many of the Disney films (especially the older ones) as long as we can talk about the movies. Which we always do.

Anyway, the day was overcast, I had the lights down low, and the sweet girl lay huddled on the couch watching her movies. I went about the business of folding big piles of laundry (good day to begin to catch up, though I spent most of the day laundering bedclothes, pajamas and towels) to the soundtrack of Disney princess songs. I wasn't paying a huge amount of attention to the films, but the songs were running in my head as I folded. And for some odd reason I couldn't quite fathom, I found myself tearing up over the Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World."

Laugh if you must, but it wasn't just flu-house-induced tiredness. I had a similar reaction not long ago, when we were perfectly healthy, while listening to Snow White trill "Someday My Prince Will Come."

Has it ever occurred to you that Disney has some downright theological moments? That what's going on in those huge, longing moments is pretty reminiscent of what C.S. Lewis refers to as "sehnsucht" -- a longing for something real and tangible in this world that nevertheless speaks to our recognition that nothing in this world will ever truly fill us up, and our longing to move beyond this world to the real world beyond? (Cornelius Plantinga sums this up beautifully in his book Engaging God's World. I quoted him in this post.)

"I want adventure in the great wide somewhere...I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone hold my hand. I want so much more than they've got planned."

"What I would give if I could live out of these waters! What I would pay to spend a day warm on the sand?...I'm ready to know what the people know, ask them my questions and get some answers. What's a fire? And why does it -- what's the word? -- burn? When's it my turn? Wouldn't I love - love to explore those shores up above? Out of the sea, wish I could be, part of your world..."

"Someday my Prince will come...someday we'll meet again. And away to his castle we'll go, to be happy forever I know. Someday when spring is here, we'll find our love anew, and the birds will sing, and wedding bells will ring, someday when my dreams come true."



Erin said...

Excellent post. As miserable as it is to be in that sick-as-a-dog state, I always felt there was something special about it too. And love your thoughts on the Disney princesses! That day, incidentally, was my first day in Orlando, which I spent largely in Downtown Disney, where I saw several Disney princesses. :)

Beth said...

Eeek! (That's me squealing with joy!) You're back! :) Glad you're home, and hope you had a wonderful time.

And how appropriate that you were hanging out with Disney princesses during our sick day here! :)