If you missed the first part of this post, you can catch up here. The Disney adventure continues . . .
We continued on our Disney adventure for the next day and a half, when my sister-in-law, Betsy, suggested going back to Belle. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I went with it. The line was a long 50 minutes, a basic eternity for a crew of four and two-year olds, but it flew by for Gabby because Brad had a plan.
At the beginning of our wait, he asked, “Who wants to be the Beast?” And Gabby enthusiastically raised her hand. “I do! I do!” So Brad started to coach her.
“Ok, Baby. If you want to be the Beast, you have to be able to roar. Let me hear your best roar.”
“Ok,” she tentatively responded. “Roar.”
“Oh, no, Babe. That will never do. You have to really roar. Let me hear you roar!”
She smiled. “ROOOOOAAAR!”
He smiled back at her. “You’re getting better, but I think you can still do more. Let’s try it again. The lady inside is going to say, ‘Who wants to be the beast?’ and what are you going to say?”
“ROOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!” She said with an increasing amount of enthusiasm.
We literally spent the next forty-five minutes like this. Roar after roar, each one attempting to be louder and more ferocious than the last. You can only imagine how the people around us in line loved us. We were getting ready to go inside, and I was tugged by this need to protect my daughter’s little heart. What if she doesn’t get picked? They only pick older kids. She’s going to be heart-broken. I have to help her. I don’t want her to experience that kind of pain of a broken dream.
“Ok, Gabby,” I tried to gently console, “It’s going to be great if we get to be Beast, but if we don’t get picked to be Beast, we’re going to be okay with that, right? We’ll be happy with whatever we get and have fun either way, okay?”
And I watched the childlike, innocent enthusiasm in her eyes transform into a look of confusion and hesitancy. Before she could answer, Brad stopped me, and simply said, “Hey, I’m trying to get her to be the Beast here. That’s what we’re going for. Let her be the Beast.”
And like a bucket of ice water dumped on my weary soul, I realized he was right. We’ve spent the last fifty minutes dreaming a dream, preparing for a dream, and at the precipice of it, I’m trying to weigh it down with disillusionment, preparing for mediocrity before it even had a chance to fly.
In trying to protect her from heartbreak, I was prohibiting her from hope.
“Forget what I said, Gabby. You go in there and be the Beast.”
We walked in the room where they assign the roles. They started choosing each character until they came to the Beast, and sure enough, the Disney worker asks, “So who wants to be the Beast?” just like we practiced.
And sure enough, the beautiful messenger of Walt Disney chooses my little peanut four-year-old daughter to be the Beast. They placed the red cape on her and she turned around to look at me with a look of pride and joy on her face that I had never seen equaled.
We went into the room where they actually carry out the play, and I was a nervous wreck. It came time for her big moment where the narrator explains that the Beast let out a terrible roar, and I held my breath as I knew it was her cue.
And let me tell you, my girl NAILED it. It was the most ferocious roar that ever came out of a little thirty-five pound, four-year-old body. The whole place burst into delighted laughter because it was so unexpectedly perfect. But she wasn’t surprised. She was prepared. Her Daddy had prepared her for that moment, and she was living it out beautifully.
The story quickly continued as Belle, the real Belle, remember, gently took Gabby’s little hand and placed it on her shoulder, and they danced to “Beauty and the Beast,” just like in the movie.
I looked at Gabby’s little face full of awe and wonder and there was one, little tear streaming down her face. She didn’t even know what it meant to cry tears of joy, but it was all her little body could handle in that moment.
This whole time, I’m sobbing, watching my little girl experience the greatest moment of her life. It was one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever had as a mom, and really as a person. Genuinely. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, with awe that God had just let this happen.
We got home that night. Everyone went to bed exhausted, but not me. I couldn’t sleep. No way. I was high on joy. I was buzzing with gratitude and I kept trying over and over to express my thanks to God for the big and small miracles that I saw that day. I just kept thinking of Gabby’s look on her face as she was dancing with Belle and the little, beautiful, innocent tear of joy in her eye.
My prayer was quickly interrupted, however, with the Holy Spirit. As I was trying to think of the best words to thank Him, I was quickened with the question,
“Leah, don’t you get it?”
I was taken aback. “Wait, what? Get it? Get what? Don’t I get what?”
“Leah,” the gentle reply came. “You’re Gabby.”
I gasped. I sunk down to the floor. “What???”
“Don’t you get it? You’re Gabby. That joy you experienced today watching your baby girl doesn’t even capture a hint of what I feel as your Father watching you dance with your dreams. I want you to dream again. I want you to hope again. I want you to dare to ask me for all those things, big and small, that you would depend on your Dad to do. I want to be your Father. You’ve never had to trust me to be your Father before because you had such a good one, but I’ve always been here. I always was your Father and I want to be your Father now. Let me coach you, prepare you, help you with those dreams, and watch how I can bring them to pass in a way that you cannot even begin to imagine.”
I had no words. No words. To see myself as Gabby, to be able to trust again, to dream again, to lean in for really the first time to God being my Father, and to imagine that God could possibly delight in me the way that I delighted in watching Gabby that day, well, that was too much for me to begin to comprehend. But at that moment, I wanted to make a choice.
“Okay. I choose you. I’m giving you my broken heart, my weariness, my despair, and all the other burdens that I’ve been carrying around these past nine months, and I choose you. I want You to be my Father, and I will choose to trust You now. I don’t exactly know how, and I’m so scared to do it, but I’m going to try.”
That was perhaps my first glimpse of my Father’s heart, seeing myself as His daughter, reaching out His hand to me, and taking the leap to grasp it with all the strength I had.
One of the things that’s been most evident since my dad’s passing is the number of people who have told me that my dad also was a spiritual father to them. They, too, were grieving the loss of a man who personified the love of Christ to them, a love that many had never known. It’s my prayer that for each of you who were able to experience the love of my Dad, that you, too, can catch a glimpse of your Father’s heart, learning what it means to see yourself as Gabby, the gem of your Daddy’s eye.