While strolling through the local Barnes and Noble, I passed a sign announcing 2009 marked the 70th anniversary of the release of MGM’s, The Wizard of Oz.
Like millions of other people, I loved, and still love, The Wizard of Oz. I watched it hundreds of time as a child, and it still cheers me up as an adult.
As a child, however, I missed the whole point of the movie. You know, the bit about Dorothy trying to go home. From the first time I watched Dorothy step out of the amber and sepia farmhouse into the Technicolor world of Oz, I knew I wanted to go there too. But unlike Dorothy, I would never look back.
I’m not sure why I chose the particular day I did. My cousin Tony had come over to play and I remember Dad was going to important man-work in the basement. I was not allowed to play outside. “I don’t even want to hear the door open,” he said.
But for whatever reason, I choose that day to leave for Oz. I put on the Dorothy costume my mother had made for me that previous Halloween, carefully divided my hair into pig-tails and packed a suitcase with crayons, coloring books (something to do while waiting for the tornado) and clean underwear. I tried to drag along my basset hound, Cleo. At eighty pounds, I knew she was too big to fit in my suitcase, but she would have to do.
“Come on, Toto!” I tugged on her collar. She licked my hand and resumed dozing.
Could I get to Oz without a dog? I couldn’t back out now. I stood at the door and looked at Tony. He waved sadly.
“You could come too, I think.”
“I don’t like the flying monkeys.”
At that, we bid farewell. I opened the screen door, picturing my grand entrance into Munchkinland. Until I heard my father stomp up the basement stairs.
I ran out the door as fast as my little legs could carry me.
I always picture this part of the story from the neighbor’s perspective. On this beautiful, sunny day a chubby, five-year-old Dorothy bursts out from the house next door, her little ruby slippers pounding the pavement for all they’re worth. Before the screen door even shuts behind her, a large, disgruntled man charges outside chasing little Dorothy. He doesn’t even need monkey wings. In about five seconds he catches her, spanks her and carries under his arm, kicking and yelling, into the house.
I doubt I made it out of the front yard. Worse, my parents forbid me from watching The Wizard of Oz for a year.
Despite my overzealousness, Oz touched a special place in my heart. I think it awakened in me what C.S. Lewis called sehnsucht, the inconsolable longing. A longing I thought could be filled somewhere over the rainbow.
Now I know better. Even Oz, though beautiful and mysterious wasn’t as wonderful as it first seemed. In the book, the Emerald City wasn’t well, emerald. They just made everyone wear green tinted glasses. And in the movie who could forget that famous fake wizard, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
My heart didn’t ache for a talking scarecrow or Munchkinland. It longed to stand in the presence of Jesus. The beauty of his kingdom surpasses even the most active imagination. And someday, I will get there; the inconsolable longing will be satisfied. I’ll look deep into face and will finally get, “There’s no place like home.”
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.
Philippians 1:21-23 (NLT)