Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roller Coasters

Let me begin by stating right up front that I hate roller coasters.  Really hate them.  Always have, always will.  I have been on a few in my lifetime, but I have never enjoyed one, not once.  Okay, to be totally honest, I am scared to death of them.  And at this point of my life, there is no reason I can think of that would convince me to subject myself to the experience again.  So there it is.  I admit it with no shame.

And yet, despite my clearly very strong feelings about roller coasters, I feel compelled today to write about them.  Why? You might ask.  It is because of Yvette.  Yes, Yvette, my crazy, hilarious, joyful, amazing, beautiful and godly friend.  She is the reason my thoughts have turned to roller coasters today.

Mind you, Yvette and I have never been on a roller coaster together.  In fact, I don't think we have even been to an amusement park at the same time, and honestly, I have no idea whether Yvette even likes roller coasters, although I imagine that it is a good possibility that she does.  It would fit her to be a roller coaster rider.

So again, we come back to the question of why I am thinking about roller coasters when I hate them, and why Yvette is responsible for my roller coaster pondering when we have no roller coaster connection.  Well, there is a good reason.  This past week, Yvette's world has been rocked by some very serious and scary medical situations.  In a very short time, so much has happened, and is still happening, and she is left reeling in the wake of it all. There are still many questions to be answered and frightening steps in the road ahead.  Yvette is my dear friend, and it hurts to watch her and her family go through this.  And so, on one of the days of this crazy, swirling mess that she has been in, when I was thinking about her and all that she is going through, my mind turned to roller coasters.

Yvette's situation got me to thinking about how much life is truly like a roller coaster.  And even as I write that, I realize how cliche it sounds.  And I promise, I hate cliches almost as much as I hate roller coasters!  But the metaphor so strongly gripped my mind and my heart that I had to follow it through to see what I could learn from it, even if it is cliche.

Some of the parallels are embarrassingly obvious--the ups and downs, and twists and turns of life are just like the proverbial roller coaster ride.  But it is true; life really is like that.  Life is rarely a straight, level, consistent path.  If there is one thing we can count on in life it is change.  Things always change, sometimes for good and sometimes not so much.  We have some seasons where everything is moving up and forward in a positive direction; but what goes up must come down, and down we eventually go.  And then all along the way, we are rolling, twisting and turning down the paths that this life gives us.  We just hold on for the ride, never knowing what is up ahead.  At times it is exhilarating, other times dizzying, and then there are the times that are downright scary.  That's the point of the ride that Yvette is on right now, the scary part.

But there is more to the roller coaster metaphor than the surface parallels.  There's more truth in the details and in the larger design.  Even though I don't have tons of experience actually riding roller coasters, I have been on a few and know how they work.  It all starts when you climb into the roller coaster car.  You get in, get all strapped, and hold on for the ride (or for dear life, if it is me).  Depending on the type of roller coaster, you might have a harness that goes over your head and straps over your chest.  Almost always, you will have a lap belt, and then there is the bar that you grip in front of you.  Even though the ride might get rough ahead, you know you are safe and protected.

Most times, there are also others with you in the car.  You might have your best friend in the seat right next to you, to scream together through the wild ride.  Other friends and family might fill the seats and cars behind you.  A roller coaster is the kind of thing you do together with others, so through all those ups and down, when it's fun and when it's scary, you're not alone; there are others with you along for the ride.

And then there is the grand design, and even more importantly, the designer.  Roller coasters really would be scary to everyone (not just me) if we didn't trust in the construction of the grand design of that structure.  Without knowing much about it, we trust in the engineering that is behind it, believing that we are safe and sound when riding it.  And while we are on that ride, we find comfort in knowing that there is an operator behind the switchboard running the ride.  There is someone there who is watching, guarding, starting, and stopping while we ride.   It is not a random, out of control experience.  It is designed and orchestrated by someone we cannot see, but we trust with our lives.

It is this part of the metaphor that brings me the most comfort.  Life is like a roller coaster.  But I am not as afraid of life as I am of roller coasters.  Why?  Because of the Designer.  In this crazy life of ups and downs, twists and turns, we are are not on a random, out of control ride.  We are on a track that has been specifically designed for each one of us individually, and the entire ride is orchestrated by One who loves us more than we can imagine.  He watches, He guides, He starts and He stops.  He is behind the "switchboard," in control of every part of our life experience.  When we know Him, and surrender our lives to Him, we are strapped in and secure, so that no matter how rough the ride might get, we will not be tossed out from the ride. We can trust Him with our lives, and we are grateful for those He gives us to go along for the journey.

So even though I still don't like them and never plan to ride one again, I thank God for roller coasters!  Thank God for the truth they reveal about His beautiful design and control of our lives.  Sometimes it will get rough; that is where my friend is now, but He is still there and will bring her...and me, and you...safely through the ride He has for us.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:9-10

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