Thursday, January 6, 2011

Life Is a Roller Coaster

You know the song, "Life is a highway, I want to drive it all night long..."? Well, I've never found that to be true. Life, in my eyes, is more like a roller coaster than a highway. Highways are usually long and straight and mundane. My life has never resembled that. I think life is more like a short, crazy ride full of ups, downs, twists, turns, fun and fear. So I think the song should have said, "Life is a roller coaster, I want to ride it all night long."

A few years ago, when my oldest son Jonah was five years old, we went to Disney World. He was just starting to enjoy "grown up" rides, and he still had some reservations about some of the scarier ones. It was a fear of the unknown - he didn't know what to expect. He was walking into something that he had never been through before and he honestly wasn't sure what would happen to him. It was dark inside the "Pirates of the Carribbean" and there was fire. He didn't understand that the fire wasn't real and the entire ride was being controlled. He didn't quite understand that it was meant for our enjoyment and there was no real risk of getting hurt. His concerns were very real to his childish mind. What if he got captured by the pirates? What if the fire burned him? What if the boat sunk? He didn't quite understand the concept of "rides", and he was genuinely worried for his safety and well-being.

I, on the other hand, was not afriad at all. Why? What was the difference between his fear and my ability to enjoy the ride without any fear at all? It was our understanding of the situation. I knew that I was not going to die. I knew the ride wasn't going to hurt me in any way. I knew it was carefully crafted and orchestrated by experts who planned every little detail of the ride. I also knew it was short and would be all over in a matter of minutes. And when it ended, I would walk away, unharmed. It was just a ride. My son, on the other hand, didn't understand that the designers and engineers made the ride in such a way that it was completely controlled and harmless. He didn't realize that nothing in the ride was actually as it seemed. That there were workers sitting at computers controlling every operation. I had been on the ride several times - I knew exactly what to expect. It was all new to him, so he didn't know what was around every dark corner. I not only had no fear, but I was able to enjoy the ride - even the parts that seemd momentarilly scarey. My son and I went on the exact same ride, but we had completely different experiences. Mine was relaxed, easy, and fun. His was feardul and stressful, and he couldn't wait for it to be over.

Life with God is much the same. We have a maker - an engineer - who is at the controls and carefully orchestrates every operation. He knows exactly what is going to happen to us and when. When we're going through a trial or a situation that seems scarey and turbulent, we're actually still on the ride and He is still very much in control. He knows it's just a short ride and we'll be off it soon. He also knows we're not really going to be harmed. But so often we walk through it in fear and stressed out about what's around every next corner.

Just like me and my son on the ride at Disney World, two people can go through the same situation in life and have completely differnet experiences. The Christian who knows that God is in control and keeping him safe will ride through a trial or struggle with no fear. He will simply take in the scenery along the way with a comforting realization that he'll be out of it soon enough and he's not going to die (at least not spiritually, since a physical death would only result in everlasting life with God in heaven). That person may expereince discomfort, but not terror. he may even be able to enjoy God's presence along the way, knowing that it's just a ride. Another person, however, who doesn't have the same perspective will be consumed with fear and worry with every twist and turn.

My son is eight years old now, and he's learned to love amusement park rides. In fact, the scarier the better for him. I, too, have been walking with God long enough to have learned to like the ride too - even if at times it's scary. I've learned to be confident in the ride Operator and the fact that He upholds the entire universe in His hands. "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope." If we really believe Him, we can sit back and enjoy the ride, even when the 200-foot drop causes our stomaches to rise up into our throats. I can almost hear Him saying, "it will be over soon - you will walk away unscathed - I am in control."

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