The Parable of the Tickets To WonderLand

There's no place like WonderLand…. Except maybe Cedar Point.

There’s no place like WonderLand! Except maybe Cedar Point…. Cedar Point is pretty awesome.

In all the land, there was no other town like Clearview. Just outside of Clearview there was an amusement park being constructed called WonderLand, and though no one knew exactly what it was like, you could tell by the colored lights and the towering roller coasters that in all the land, there was no place as fun and impressive as WonderLand. The person behind the construction of WonderLand was a man named Edward Manuel, and in all the land, there was no one as influential and powerful and wise as Mr. Manuel. He had decided to build WonderLand for everyone, because in all the land, no one loved people more than Edward Manuel.

There's always at least one smart ass….

There’s always at least one smart ass….

If you asked any of the residents of Clearview, their town was clearly the best. A stranger passing through might not even be able to tell, but the residents would be happy to point out how pleasingly the birds sang, how soft and warm the wind would blow, and how the blooming trees smelled sweeter there than anywhere else. The streets bustled with town pride. On Friday nights, the whole town would show up to cheer on their football team–Especially when Clearview played their big rival, Sunnyview. It was a rivalry that went back hundreds of years…. That game between the Clearview High Crusaders and the Sunnyview Saints always seemed to bring out the worst in everyone. The kids would make signs that said “Our town is the best!” or “More like CLOUDYview!” or “You guys are going to burn in Hell!” Things got pretty intense….

People felt like this, and imagined it was going to be like Wonka's factory…. Only without the little creepy purple dudes.

People felt like this, and imagined it being like Wonka’s factory…. Only without the little creepy orange dudes.

It was into this intensity that Edward Manuel decided to announce the upcoming Grand Opening Celebration of WonderLand. The construction and last minute details took up much of his time, so his son went into the town to let them know what was happening and hand out tickets for the event of a lifetime. Usually, if you wanted an invitation for an event like this, you had to do something really great at work, or you had to know someone important, or you had to be rich enough to pay for it. But for this celebration, it wasn’t about what you did or who you knew or how much money you had…. These tickets weren’t for sale. To get a ticket, all you had to do was ask for it.

They're hard-selling this one.

They’re hard-selling this one.

People had very different reactions to those tickets. Some people asked for a ticket, and some people didn’t. Others never even heard about the tickets! Some had been scammed by ticket giveaways before, and they figured this one was fake as well. Some used to have a ticket, but lost it. Some took a ticket, but they were never really sure that it was actually going to work. Some felt like they needed to pull their ticket out and show it to every single person they met, letting others know how much THEY needed a ticket. Some seemed to only hang out with other ticket holders. Some even started turning up their noses at people without a ticket, because some–and this is the strangest thing–started feeling like the simple act of asking for a ticket meant that they had somehow earned their admission…. They started to believe that they DESERVED that ticket.

Yeah…. This is pretty much the opposite of a loving father.

Yeah, umm…. I’m pretty sure that this is the exact OPPOSITE of a loving father.

The son tried to explain that his dad wasn’t giving out tickets because of how good they were, but because he loved them. He wanted it to be an act of kindness…. Something that wasn’t based on what people deserved, but instead something that was based on how much he loved them. Inside the town, everything was based on “what people deserved,” but for this big party he was throwing, he wanted things to be different. He didn’t want people getting in because of something THEY did–He wanted it to be because of something HE did.

I think I've heard this guy preach before….

I think I’ve heard this guy preach before….

Many people suspected that Edward Manuel had done things this way because he wanted the people of the town to be so inspired by this act of love that they would love each other in this same way–A love that comes as a response to being loved is a powerful thing. For so long, people had played by a set of rules that said, “You get what you deserve,” but with this WonderLand, these tickets, this son…. With one act, he had shown them a different way. A better way. A way that didn’t focus on people getting what they deserved, but instead, a way that acknowledged that everyone–no matter who they are–deserved to be loved.

But really, no one knew for sure exactly what was going in Edward Manuel’s mind when he decided to do this act of extravagant love. How could they?

Who started THIS one?!?

Who started THIS one?!?

Years went by without an opening…. There were rumors surrounding the Grand Opening of WonderLand. Some people thought WonderLand was never going to open, and others swore up and down that it was going to open very, very soon. Some people thought that only certain special tickets would actually get you in, others thought that tickets had to be validated somehow, and still other thought that people would be able to get in even if they didn’t have a ticket. Someone even started a horrible rumor that everyone who didn’t get into WonderLand was going to get tortured…. FOREVER!! This scared a lot of people, even though it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. This didn’t sound like Edward Manuel–Especially not as the son described him. He was a powerful man, and certainly there was enough room in WonderLand…. It would make him seem quite monstrous to let all those people without tickets get TORTURED!!!

But again, no one really knew for sure how it was going to go. These were all just rumors–None of the people from the town had ever even met Edward Manuel face-to-face…. They were all just going off of the word of the one who was handing out the tickets.

SPOILER ALERT: My family and I TOTALLY get into Wonderland…. Notice my "Ask me about my Religion & Politics T-Shirt.

SPOILER ALERT: My family & I TOTALLY get into Wonderland! Notice my “Ask me about my Religion & Politics” T-Shirt.

Finally, the day came for the Grand Opening, and the line to get in wound back and forth. The people standing in line looked around, and many were very surprised at what they saw. They were surprised to see people from Sunnyview standing in line–Many  people had assumed, for some reason, that the tickets were only passed out in Clearview. They were also surprised to see people waiting in line who they knew for a FACT did not have a ticket–Did they think they were going to get in without a ticket!??! And most surprising was seeing the person who everyone somehow immediately recognized as Edward Manuel himself, standing at the gate and working the turnstile.

SERIOUSLY?!? Who let THESE guys in? this is NOT FAIR!!!

SERIOUSLY?!? Who let THESE guys in? This is NOT FAIR!!!

As the line grew nearer to the entrance, people with tickets could clearly see Mr. Manuel waving in people who had no ticket. Sometimes, he would even signal to have some of those people in the back of the line come up to the front! Seeing this stirred deep memories of watching other kids open presents, and deep feelings of “No fair!” Some people began to grumble, “What the hell is this?!?! HE doesn’t have a ticket. I Have a ticket!!” Even some of the ones who believed the ugly rumor about ticketless folks getting tortured seemed genuinely disappointed that people without tickets were being let in. They yelled, “What’s the point of this ticket anyway??” They honestly didn’t know. They thought it was all about WonderLand…. When it was always about their heart. They thought of WonderLand like a lifeboat on a cold sea, with its passengers pushing away drowning people with their oars, frightened that too many people would capsize the boat.

Still, other people cheered when Edward Manuel waved the ticketless people in. Many of those ticketless people were their friends, and they had held onto hope that they would get to ride a few rides and drink a few beers with them in WonderLand. “It’s his park. He can do what he wants,” they said. “It’s not like I earned this ticket anyway. It was a gift! Am I any more deserving of admission that that person?” It was a good question….

And then there's this.

And then there’s this.

But the important question was never about who’s getting into WonderLand and who’s not…. Who could know that? Who could ever claim to know the mind of a man like Edward Manuel? The question was always about your heart. Are you the sort of person who feels like you’ve been wronged when someone is let in without a ticket? Or are you the sort of person who holds onto hope, who applauds grace being extended to someone who is not you, who cheers like crazy when someone some poor, ticketless soul gets waved in from the back of the line? Which sort of person would you rather be….

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34 Responses to The Parable of the Tickets To WonderLand

  1. Pingback: 10 Things Pope Francis Has Done That Make Me Consider Being Catholic | The Boeskool

  2. Kevin Smith says:

    Faith is the most important thing, then love. Don’t get them confused. You can love all you want, but without accepting the ultimate source you will never have enough to find yourself in heaven.

    • theboeskool says:

      How much faith are we talking about, Kevin? How much faith do we need to have to get saved? What if I start to doubt as I’m dying? What about 60/40 faith–will that get me in?

      I don’t think things are as simple as you think they are.

      • The faith is reaching out for the ticket. I like your analogy that out of love those without tickets MIGHT be allowed in. But why take a chance. At the cross, it was the one who reached out that Jesus said would be with him that day in paradise (Wonderland). What happened to the other thief? Hell? Purgatory? Allowed in without a ticket? We don’t know. But if tickets are indeed being handed out, if I were you I’d grab one.

    • Havilah says:

      … if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… (1 Corinthians 13:2)

      … these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

    • LB says:

      I think you are wrong. I think only God has the Answer. I also believe that God will judge us based on our actions and our hearts, not our faith. Otherwise people raised on different religions would have not chance. If you know how good God is, then you should not put limits to His forgiving. He might actually forgive those that think they know what the answer is, as in your case, those that think that anyone who does not believe in the same religion don’t go to Heaven.

  3. Anna says:

    Chris, this is fabulous 🙂 I think you’re dead on that it’s not about heaven, but rather the heart. And to go a little further, perhaps it’s about truth. Seeking out truth, regardless of where it’s found. Maybe that’s another way the Wonderland metaphor could be spun – Wonderland is a place of truth – ultimate truth and there are lots of gates into Wonderland.

  4. Diane says:

    THIS!!!! SO WONDER-ful!

  5. Faith Woodward says:

    Ok, but even in this analogy, you say yourself that to get a ticket “all you have to do is ask.” But you DO have to ask… Right? I mean Jesus DID say there’s no way to the father except through him (believing in him as lord and savior specifically). So like… I’m definitely not against grace being extended and “people without tickets being let in”… But is it fair to those people to not let on that we have a good reason (whether sensical or nonsensical) to believe that there is some kind of stipulation? Certainly not that they earn their ticket (which I agree is impossible), but that they do ASK for it?

    And if you knew about something really amazing and wonderful that was great while you were waiting and also after you get in, wouldn’t you want to tell every person you met about it when all they had to do was ask? (And I’m talking to myself on this one… I am NOT the evangelist type. It’s awkward, pressuring and almost always uncomfortable for everyone involved, but I’m realizing as I type this that if I had the genuine desire to share something I believe to be truly wonderful with someone else who just doesn’t know about it yet, why wouldn’t I do it?? So apparently I’m in need of a re-realization about how wonderful he is… But back to the stipulation thing.)

    I agree with the point about the heart, but can you honestly suggest that it’s better to just hope for the best in the name of not trying to “scare people into heaven”? Isn’t the “Jesus stipulation” supposed to be an incentive for us believers to go into the world making disciples of all men? (Not just certain people… All people… No stipulation there.) I mean, I know there is a huge philosophical issue with the conflicting ideas that God is all powerful and also loves unconditionally, because how could he not use his power to save people if he is all loving? It’s crazy, right? But there’s no good answer that I know of, and I don’t think “let’s hope God doesnt care about that one specific stipulation because that would be so unreasonable” is a very good alternative. It seems to me that either you accept the unexplainable and potentially unreasonable stipulation and choose Christ, or you decide that unexplainable unreasonable stipulation isn’t good enough and don’t choose Christ.

    But… That being said, it’d be really convenient and great for everyone if your idea was right ha!

    Also, sorry for using the word stipulation ten billion times.

    • Faith Woodward says:

      Actually, I’m gonna change what I said about how great it would be for everyone if you were right; it would be great that they don’t go to hell, but how sad that they “conveniently” live their entire lives without the love and relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Definitely less great.

    • theboeskool says:

      I like the word stipulation….

      So that verse that you mentioned was mentioned a whole lot on my Pope blog post, and it is what led to my writing this. The verse is “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and then many people use this as a proof that “belief” in Jesus (or “accepting Jesus” as your personal savior, or a “personal relationship,” etc….) is the only way to get into heaven. A lot of times salvation is thought of as an entrance to heaven/escape from hell, but either way, it is about what happens when we die rather than the valuable changing of the way we do things right now. I believe there is a lot of mystery about what happens/where we go/how we get there when we die. I don’t think even the people who wrote the books in the Bible pretended to have certainty about this stuff…. So why would we want to feign certainty in order to scare people into heaven. ESPECIALLY when the picture that most Christians portray of Hell as “an eternity of torture” is SO logically incompatible with the idea of a loving or merciful OR EVEN A JUST God? An eternity of torture is never–in any sane mind–an appropriate or just response to 50 years of selfishness, or 60 years of arrogance, or 80 years of gullibility, or 18 years of gayness, or 100 even 100 years of rebellion…. At seeing an hour of torture, everything in us that had anything to do with God would be crying out for Mercy, like the people watching William Wallace being drawn and quartered in Braveheart. A God with an ounce of goodness or power would mercifully end the life of anyone in that situation, right?

      Still, as I responded somewhere on Facebook, “If you needed cable lines to get HBO, and then the cable company decided to give us all HBO without us having to do anything/pay anything to sign up, it doesn’t mean that the cable lines weren’t necessary.” Maybe (for whatever reason) Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were the cable lines that are attached to our houses, even if we decide not to have a TV…..

      Also, people don’t always include the next part of that passage in John which says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Jesus says “If you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” The best picture of God that we have is Jesus! And that picture does not seem to me 1) like it is free from mystery, and 2) like it is the sort of person who would set things up so that the vast majority of his creation (that he loves like his kids) are going to be tortured in Hell for a trillion years. Based on what I know about Jesus, that God is a logical impossibility for me.

      Also, I believe it is way more “convenient” for people to live their lives with Jesus. I talk to people about Jesus all the time. Not believing that hell is an eternity of torture and hoping for the possibility of people getting into Heaven who don’t believe in Jesus does not prevent a person from being excited to tell the whole world about Jesus, as well as the whole “making disciples” thing. 🙂

      • TruthSeeker says:

        I really love how you said this and I’m sorry because this is going to be a long post.

        There is a HUGE possibility that we are not understanding the phrasing and idioms properly. Idioms and phrasing do not always translate after thousands of years into the current language, especially when we don’t exactly even know what the idioms were used way, way back then. It isn’t as easy as saying this word = this word even with modern languages and slang. Some languages, you literally CAN NOT translate the idioms into English, period. So what he could have been saying is “the wisdom/state of being that I have inside me is the route to God (aka what or who I am at my core is the route to God), if you don’t have this wisdom/state of being you cannot know God”. That would also explain why he went on to say “if you have seen me, you have seen the father” because the wisdom or divine qualities of God were present in him. This would also explain why he was the “son of god” but we can all be “sons and daughers of god”. Just like he is of the father because of who he has become in his very nature, so we can become if we follow his example and his most important commandment “Love God and love others as yourself”.

        I’ve meditated, prayed, and searched to really know God for over 20 years. I starting out with church taught Christian principles (and realizing many of them are not based on a good understanding of scripture or any scripture), progressed to realizing a group of political leaders decided what was in the current Bible, and other realizations. There is very little about the Bible as a document that we can know for certain. There is also a lot of known corruption that was in play, with people saying that God said/allowed/outlawed certain things to justify some corrupt government/private action.

        I also agree that he would never condemn people to eternal torture. It doesn’t add up. God is all about learning why what you are doing is wrong, fixing your heart so you love instead of harm (even yourself), fixing any damage you caused that is fixable, and then allowing him to forgive you and cleanse you of your guilt and old habits. You don’t learn anything from eternal torture and it doesn’t line up with God’s end game (aka you knowing him and knowing complete love, peace, and wholeness in a close relationship).

        On a related note, why would God condemn people who die without ever meeting a Christian missionary to burn in hell?? That is just plain illogical and cruel. God isn’t illogical or cruel, so we must be getting something wrong along the line. God is everywhere and still speaks to us if we listen. Most Christians will tell you that, but most never stop to listen or even question their preacher as they are commanded in scripture (“test the spirits to see if they are of God”). Interestingly, the messages that come through never seem to be “believe in this one guy or your doomed”. The messages always seem to be “have compassion for yourself and others around you because you have intrinsic worth” and “You are never too far gone to change and be forgiven”, mixed in with “why are you being so arrogant when you have no basis to judge anyone, regardless of what the ‘good book’ says. I don’t see your name on that book.”. If we are taught to test the spirits to see who is of God, we have to understand God. If God doesn’t seem to be making sense, some wires got crossed. I’m always shocked by the response “Just trust the inconsistencies because God is unknowable”. If God is unknowable, how on earth can we test to see if someone is of God. The short answer is that we can’t.

    • Kenster999 says:

      “I mean Jesus DID say there’s no way to the father except through him (believing in him as lord and savior specifically).”

      But He also said (Matthew 25:31-46): “31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      Note that this says nothing about faith or belief in God and/or Jesus. Why do so many people only ever quote the other verses about getting into Heaven and never these?

      • Faith says:

        Why does quoting one verse imply that it’s the only verse applicable? When there are more applicable verses, it should be implied that they also apply, not the other way around.

  6. Brian Garland says:

    Enjoying these articles. Lots of common sense, which as they say is unfortunately not very common. Ultimately we can never really KNOW what is ahead after death which is why I guess it’s all about faith. The people in this world who scare me the most are those who are SO certain that they have the one and only blueprint based on their ‘special’ insight/privileged relationship with God or Truth or whatever. Place in this category extremists of every religious and political persuasion. I can never get my head around what is usually such bigotry and exclusion and often genuine hatred for people who think differently from them. I find it hard enough trying to successfully run my own life let alone think that I somehow have the right to tell others how they should live theirs. Surely we need to help each other and continually count our blessings.

  7. Dina Becnel says:

    While I enjoyed the “parable” I also found it treading dangerous waters as far as theology goes. First the Sin that separates us from God is NOT gayness, rebellion, adultry, or anything else people normally view as Sin. God the Father is very loving and clearly gives His Forgiveness, Mercy, Grace and Love without ANY cost to us. It was done at the Cross. The only thing we need do, is accept that Mercy and Forgivenss. Just as if your house was on fire, destroying everything you held dear, and you were given a fire truck and unlimited resources to put out that fire, all you needed to do was pick up the hose, and you refused preferring to watch your home burn down. How can He be held responsible for that? Living in the Western world it is clear that idolatry of money, power, self, etc keeps us from Him. In the Eastern world or the Third World it is far more likely that another religion is practiced, but no that does not necessarily mean that those people are automatically barred from Him for all eternity. ( I assume these are the ones without Tickets?) Of course that would not make sense. Each person is given the choice to accept God or to turn their back on Him. It may not be the name of Jesus, but it is His Spirit that they accept. Psalm 8:3-4 states that man looks at the Heavens and sees God’s handiwork. It is the recognition of God as Creator that allows for His acceptance here. To know there is something outside of yourself, greater than yourself that is present in your life. The Holy Spirit will reach EVERY person in this way to give him opportunity to accept God. It is the arrogant and the idolator that can only put himself or his object of idolatry first, completely ignoring the presence of God. We can only be held accountable for what we know. In the Western world, EVERY person has heard the name of Jesus and has access to a Bible or a Church. It makes it that much harder because we can then be held accountable, but our own understanding and our own ideas, are given full permission to decide what we want to believe, and even how we want to twist the truth. It is our freedom of expression that is so encouraged in other areas of our life, that we bring it forth in The Word of God or works of Jesus, mistaken that that too is open for own interpretation. This can lead to Agnostics, Athiests or dangerous theology

    You also asked about Faith, should it be 60/40? what happens if on your death bed you have doubts? Faith is like a mustard seed, you only need a little for it to grow, and it will. Of course there are trials and situations we may go through that test our Faith, but does that mean it wanes? I don’t think so, I think we come out of them with stronger Faith. Once you have declared your Faith in God and accepted His Son Jesus as Savior, you cannot be lost. The ONLY unforgiveable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which if you are worried you commited it, you never did and you never will. SO even if you have little Faith, it is enough.

    Just my humble opinion :o)

  8. miguel says:

    Honestly it’s perhaps one of the best articles if read in my life, for that, I thank you.

  9. Jenn Meadows says:

    What makes me sad is to see that a majority of the churches in the images are United Methodist. I have hope in my denomination to start practicing open hearts, open mind, open doors, but we aren’t quite there yet…

  10. Julia says:

    I adore this article, and for that matter the others of yours I’ve read this evening. You’ve articulated your ideas so well and the positivity and compassion in those ideas shine through. It’s very inspiring to see such thoughtful and whole-hearted opinion – thank you for writing 🙂

  11. Felemoh says:

    Lol I’m the guy that just wants to get in and believes that everyone should get in, regardless of status ( think broad here).

  12. Adam says:

    If “Wonderland” only has roller coasters… and you hate roller coasters… do you still want to go?

    • theboeskool says:

      People who don’t like roller coasters are going to hell. 🙂

      • Adam says:

        Yeah, they don’t know how to have any fun at all.

        Those who think everyone should “get in” fail to recognize that not everyone wants in. Mr. E. Manuel is not about to force people to ride the roller coasters if they have no desire to do so.

        “I am sorry Adolf… we do not have “tea cups” here at wonderland… you will have to go to Disney World instead. You will be happier there than you will be here with me and my roller coasters.”

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  15. Robert says:

    This ‘parable’ short story makes it clear to me now why I AM a Catholic and not a Baptist or Methodist. J.D.Salinger and Antoine St Exupéry you are not. yuk

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