I think it’s safe to assume that physically, the first drop on a roller coaster feels a lot like riding a runaway train hurtling off a cliff. (Admittedly, I’ve never actually experienced the latter.) Even though our brains know the ultimate outcome of each, both experiences will cause us to scream like that thief in Home Alone who got the tarantula placed on his face.
I’m an eternal optimist (I am a Cubs fan, after all) but also a bit of a worrier. When an unexpected expense comes up, or the bank account looks smaller than it should, or an abnormality on a medical test pops up, I’m only a hop, skip, and a jump away from pushing the panic button.
It’s in those moments that my life feels like a runaway train, and I’m racing toward certain doom. My fear is something terrible and my faith is tested.
And yet, so far, disaster is always avoided. The car rights itself, the path levels out, God provides. It’s not that bad things never happen, but they somehow give way to something good.
What I am trying to do is own the metaphor of the roller coaster. When you get on a roller coaster, you know that you are safe. The ride has been carefully designed and the passengers return unscathed. Although the giant drops and corkscrews coax out blood-curdling screams, you know that you are not in any real danger. Which is what makes the ride so thrilling and enjoyable. The terror becomes fun — a stress release of sorts — and you can fully give yourself over to the experience.
That’s how I want to look at life. Instead of fearing the worst and losing faith every time I encounter a perilous situation, I want to know in my deepest being that things will always work out in the end. And that knowledge will allow me to shift the way I look at things. I can give myself over to the thrill of the ride, feeling the rush at the core of my soul, fully expecting that my car will end up safely back at the station. I can watch and appreciate what God is doing in my life, rather than fear that I have been completely abandoned.
That’s how I think God designed life to be. A thrill ride. A series of exciting ups and downs and unforeseen twists that’s over too quickly. One that finds us rolling into the station called Heaven at the end of our ride excitedly saying, “That was AWESOME! I wanna do it again!”
I suppose it is natural to want to go through life via the smooth road. No bumps or dips, no sharp turns or precipitous drops. We crave comfort.
And yet how boring would that be?
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), life doesn’t work that way. There are ups and downs and moments fraught with terror.
It basically comes down to this: Do I believe that am I on a runaway train that is hurtling toward a broken bridge, or am I on a roller coaster at the greatest amusement park in existence?
Yes, it is a choice.
I choose the roller coaster.