Rollercoasters

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When I was younger, rollercoasters terrified me. My family went on vacation every summer and one of our annual events was a day at “Arnold’s Park”. The rollercoaster was the first thing anyone heard/saw upon entering. It seemed to say, “Welcome! If you don’t take a chance and ride me before you leave, you’ll miss the “Amusement Park Experience!”

And for the first few years, I’d just look at it, in awe. Wishing I was strong enough to ride the rollercoaster. All my older cousins road the coaster like it was baby stuff, racing back to the line to ride it again and again.

All I wanted was the courage to ride the rollercoaster. And one year, it happened. I buckled up and held on for dear life. On the way up the jankety tracks, I cried my eyes out… on the way down the first drop off, I almost puked… and around the curve that tricked you into thinking it was the end (but it was really the worst fall of all)… I screamed a scream that only dogs could hear. But the funny part of this whole story, was as we rolled back to the starting point, I felt excitement. I felt accomplished.

So what did I do? I got off the ride, and RAN to get in line again. I became one of “the older cousins”, riding that rollercoaster again and again and again.  And what happens when you get caught on rollercoasters? More often than not, you begin feeling sick.

I think we are offered the opportunity to get back in the rollercoaster line everyday. It’s something that fills us with mystery, fear, anxiety, excitement, joy, relief, and ends in utter confusion. Something we can’t let go of. It is easy to think that a step onto a rollercoaster is a step towards bravery, a step towards that feeling of accomplishment and finally uncovering the key to happiness.

If you make it out alive, think of all of the crazy stories you’ll have to tell! Think of the random drop offs that will leave you clueless as to what was coming next! Think of all the times it will speed up and then instantly slow down just to add a little excitement! Think of all of the times it will jerk you to the right and then fake you out! That’s life, right? YOLO, right?

Hmm.

I think it’s easy to think that this “epic adventure of a rollercoaster ride” is a part of God’s plan. But, things get confusing when you hit the first turn and your body slides across the metal seat and your hipbone slams into the opposite side. That hurts. And then you realize the person sitting next to you (be it a real person, a constant sin, a wound left unhealed, a material object… or maybe it’s just you) is indeed NOT God.

God is standing STILL on the ground.

Just watching you go round and round, waiting for you to realize that rollercoasters are just amusement park rides and are not to be confused with real life.

It is so easy to get lost in what feels like courage, what feels like bravery. You think you’re “on a mission from God” (Thanks, Blues Bros).  But then comes that sharp turn.

“Jesus, why did you do that? Why is this not as fun as it was a second ago? Why did you put me on this ride if it was going to hurt so much?”

Simple.

He didn’t.

Free will, man. It’s a killer sometimes.

He invited you to stand still with him on the ground, but you chose differently.

It happens all the time. That’s love. In those moments of choice, God is giving us the opportunity to love him. To choose Him.

Rollercoasters are fun, but they aren’t something to gauge your accomplishments on. And they aren’t something to measure your level of bravery or courage, because more often than not in life, it takes much more courage to step off the rollercoaster and not get back in line.

I find so much bravery in people who are still in a world that encourages us to be anything but.

Be brave. Be still.

Ride the rollercoaster once, walk past the line with a smile, and let God walk you to the Ferris wheel. 

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