While sitting at my desk doing paperwork the other day, my daughter turned on the Disney movie, Alice In Wonderland. Over the years I’ve seen this cartoon many times -and I would have even listed it as one of my favorites from Disney’s immense catalog of feature length cartoons. The Cheshire Cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Mad Hatter and March Hare, I’ve always adored them all. I’ve read Lewis Carroll’s book, for myself and to my children. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I truly realized what was going on in this beloved story about Alice getting lost in Wonderland.
As the movie opens, Alice is bored out of her mind as her sister is trying to give her a history lesson. When young Alice is continually distracted, she is reprimanded by her sister. The conversation goes something like this (excuse my from-memory paraphrasing).
Sister: Alice, will you kindly pay attention to your history lesson.
Alice: I’m sorry, but how can I possibly pay attention to a book with no pictures?
Sister: My dear Alice, there are a great many books without pictures.
Alice: In this world maybe, but in my world the books would be nothing but pictures.
Sister: That’s just nonsense.
Alice (sitting up in epiphany): Nonsense. That’s it! In my world, everything would be nonsense.
From here Alice starts a conversation with her cat, where she tells her that in her world, the cat wouldn’t meow, but she’d talk and so would all the other animals. She breaks out into song as she completely abandons her sister with the boring book that has no pictures. In the song she continues to talk about the world she wants, where cats and rabbits would live in houses and so on. It’s about this moment that the infamous White Rabbit shows up, freaking out over the time and dashing off to get to whatever he’s late for, and Alice follows. Down the rabbit hole she goes, and from there she is lost in Wonderland.
It’s a familiar story, and one that I know many of us have seen many times. It’s a Disney Classic, for goodness sakes! We have to know those songs and lines by heart so we can repeat them mindlessly as we work while our kids sit ogling at the masterfully-made animated images. And so it was yesterday. My daughter was watching, I was working while it played in the background and it was about half-way through the film that it hit me: Alice got what she wanted.
It’s a complex idea cupeled with the simplicity of a children’s story. She wanted a world of nonsense, and that’s exactly what she got. In Wonderland, nothing makes sense. The animals talk, one can change their size just from eating or drinking something. Everyone has 364 un-birthdays, the Queen of Hearts is in power, and the flowers sing better than you do. It’s nonsense, and in staying in the reality of fantasies, once Alice gets what she wants, she doesn’t like it. She’s completely unhappy and brought to tears by the end. All she wants to do is go home, where things are normal.
At this point I was completely distracted from my work as I started to ponder over this idea. Alice got what she wanted, and she hated it. I couldn’t help but think back over my life. A year ago, three years ago, three weeks ago -I had great ideas and plans for what I wanted to happen, how I wanted “my world” to be. If I could have, I would of snapped my fingers and made it so. Sadly, looking back at it now, I probably would have ended up utterly miserable, just like Alice.
I’ve been learning a lot lately about patience, and I think my little head-trip over the deeper meanings behind Alice In Wonderland are a product of that. So often I want to dash ahead, to get things done now, when really, I’d just screw everything up if I did. I happen to believe in God, and I trust him to bring about things in just the right time and fashion. Unlike me, thankfully, God is sovereign and he won’t send me down a rabbit hole into a world where I’m miserable. But, if given the chance, I’m sure I’d send myself there many times.
In the past I have often whined about not getting my way. I’ve been upset and discontented about things not working out like I had planned. But maybe, just maybe God was keeping me from ending up running from the Queen of Hearts or from being shunned by beautiful flowers who sing like angels or from getting a lecture from a smoking caterpillar. I still have many hopes, dreams, and plans for the future, but I think I will be a bit more mindful now about being inpatient with them. Maybe what I’m learning is to surrender things to God’s timetable, and not my own.