Roller Coaster

It was the last week of summer, and my family and I were looking for something fun to do, so we made a visit to our local amusement park, ZDT’s. If you’ve ever been to ZDT’s in Seguin, you know that there are various games and rides, and even a mini-waterpark. But the thing that stands out most—the thing that catches your eye as you drive past—is the Switchback, a big wooden roller coaster that runs both forward and backward on its track for the ultimate thrill.

I didn’t ride the Switchback that day. It was about 103 degrees outside, and I had a headache. But I have ridden several big roller coasters in my life, and, probably like many of you, my reaction to the big thrill factor isn’t to scream, but to laugh hysterically and continuously until the ride ends.

Here’s the best and most important part of any roller coaster: the moment when your little car crests the biggest hill and tips over the edge, and you know you’re going down, but you can’t see the track. At this moment, some riders hold on for dear life. Some scream. Some throw their hands in the air and laugh their heads off.

That sensation, that defining moment, is why we ride roller coasters—or don’t.

It all comes down to that split second when you have no choice but to trust. You trust that the track, even though you can’t see it, is there. You trust that the apparatus is well-built. You trust that whoever designed the thing knew what they were doing.

Sort of like life, right? Sure, we can control some factors: what to wear, what to eat, what to do for a living, who to be in relationship with… And being in control of these little things sometimes creates the illusion that we’re actually in control of the ride itself.

The ride I’m referring to, though, is the Bigger Life. For example, I didn’t decide where to be born…I don’t know how we all got here or exactly why. Sure, we can study things, understand things, categorize things, label things. We can observe. But that’s not the same as being in control. Even if I studied biology extensively and read every book about plant life, I still couldn’t get around the fact that a single blade of grass is a miracle.

And the God who created the grass, the trees, the stars, all of it— is the one who laid the track.  The illusion—the same illusion that lets me think I’m the one in control of the ride—goes on to convince me that I can set God onto a cloud in a flowing white robe, surround him with winged angels and hang the whole thing on my wall. Or that I can fit him into my little prayer box and call on him to come out when I need him. Or that I can even begin to fathom, or label, or limit, or bottle the essence of God.

But God is so much bigger than that. And life is so much more than the things that I can pin under my thumb. And every now and then, I think it’s good to be reminded of that—especially if you’re standing, watching a roller coaster fly by on a 103-degree Texas afternoon. That is the perfect time to consider the idea of trusting God for all of the things I can’t control. What if I decided to fasten my seatbelt, do my best, and for the rest of it, trust that it’s all part of the ride?

A baby’s first cry, a wedding day kiss; the moment someone you love leaves this life and goes to the next place, wherever that is; sunrises, sunsets…these are the highs and lows, the twists and turns, and maybe it’s scary, but maybe it’s also okay. Because we trust the one who designed the ride. We only need to look at the miraculous world we live in—not the world we have made, but the one the Creator made—to know that the apparatus is brilliant and beautiful and sound.

So here we are, all together on this ride. Today is a fine day to make up your mind how you’ll handle it. Maybe you’ll relentlessly try to steer the car, even though that never works. Maybe you’ll live in a constant state of fear that the next big dip is coming, even though big dips can be transformative experiences. Maybe you’ll try to figure out in advance where the track will turn, even though there’s no telling—and looking ahead, you’ll miss the part you’re on right now. Maybe you’ll hold on for dear life. But I hope we’ll all say a little prayer and go down trusting, hands in the air. Laughing.


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