For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:13
The Walt Disney World Resort is indeed the happiest place on earth (at least in my Mickey Mouse-eared experience). There’s so much to do there that if you think you’re gonna just stop in for the day you’ll end up leaving with your feelings hurt at all the stuff you missed.
I can’t really think of anything in any of the four parks that I dislike – maybe “it’s a small world,” but only because that seemingly innocuous little theme song tends to ear worm its way into my head for the rest of the day.
Oh, wait – there it is now. Great…
With the exception of “it’s a small world,” I tend to enjoy the attractions and shows that rely on Audio-Animatronic technology. Audio-Animatronic characters are amazingly lifelike robotic figures depicting pirates, presidents, dinosaurs, etc. (Just don’t get them mixed up with the figures at Chuck E. Cheese, the backwoods primitives of the animatronics set, sort of like uncouth third cousins twice removed.)
My favorite Animatronics-based attraction is The American Adventure at Epcot, a theatrical production depicting a brief history of America told entirely by a cast of 35 Audio-Animatronic characters portraying the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass with incredible realism. If I didn’t know better, I could easily let myself believe I was actually looking at Gen. George Washington sitting atop a live horse at Valley Forge in the middle of winter or Alexander Graham Bell in a booth during America’s Centennial celebration.
If you poke around on YouTube you can easily uncover clips of Disney Imagineers talking about the process of programming an Audio-Animatronic figure. The patience and artistry required to make a character’s facial features – mouth, eyes, even cheeks – synch perfectly with the recorded dialogue are almost unimaginable. Add to that the myriad of other bodily movements and even a few seconds of action can take hours to program.
However, I can just imagine the satisfaction of standing back after all those hours of work and watching Abraham Lincoln rise from his chair to deliver a speech or a gigantic Yeti make a grab for someone’s roller coaster car and realize I was the one who made that inanimate figure act according to my “good purpose.”
Not to commandeer Philippians 2:13 (the Bible verse for today) for such secular means or equate Disney Imagineers with God, but I couldn’t help but find a similarity between what Imagineers do with Audio-Animatronic figures and what God does with us as followers of Jesus.
Both bring previously lifeless objects to life, the Imagineer by supplying energy through circuits and actuators and God through the energizing work of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. “The Message,” a fairly recent, contemporary translation of the Bible, describes God’s working in the life of the pliant Christian in Philippians 2:13 this way:
That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
In fact, the Greek word translated as “work” and “will” in “The Message” and the New International Version I use is energeo (en-erg-eh’-o), from which our word “energy” is derived.
So both animators – Disney Imagineer and God – use their available energy resources to cause their formerly lifeless charges to work according to their will.
But here’s where the analogy ends – unlike humans, Animatronic figures don’t have any will of their own.
I’m not a robotic automaton that God simply pushes around. I mean, He could definitely push me around if He wanted to, but that’s not His way. He gave me the freedom to choose:
- Whether I wanted to experience the incomprehensible depth of His love and goodness and spend eternity in His presence in a place that is so amazing it almost makes my head hurt to even try to imagine it, or
Um, hello? Seems to be a no-brainer to me now, but it took me over a half-century to wise up. (Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.) When I became a Christian and chose option “1” (love, goodness, eternity, amazement) I relinquished control to God so He could work in me to do what was best to effectively carry out His plans and purpose for me.
Since that time, hardly a day goes by that I’m not aware of Him being at work within me. This blog is a great example of that. Everything that makes it into a post here on “clay” is the result of God’s inspiration to help me tell the story He wants to tell. It’s my quirky writing style, my grammatical idiosyncrasies, but the final copy is the result of God’s direction so that what I write is pleasing to Him and is something He can use for His honor and glory.
And if a day does go by without the awareness of Him being at work within me, then it’s because I’ve tried to go it on my own and have ignored His direction and influence. In a previous post, Spiritual Tomatoes, I mentioned how I’ve written more than a few posts twice – once on my own and once by following the Lord’s guidance. Guess which version ended up in the electronic trash can…? It amazes me that, after two-and-a-half years of God showing me time and again that His way is best and that He is worthy of my trust and devotion, I still struggle with letting Him have total control of my life.
Why is that? It never fails that anything God wants to do through me is good; anything I want to do on my own, though – well, King David said it best in Psalm 14:3:
…there is no one who does good, not even one.
Reminds me of lyrics sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary back in the 60s: “When will they ever learn?”
But I am learning – slowly – to trust God to keep flipping the spiritual switches and circuits that help me act like a true follower of Christ with amazing realism. Plus, His theme song isn’t the least bit annoying:
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:3)
And this refurbished world of joy and hope I now live in? Not so small after all.