Roller Coasters

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

Roller coasters and summers have gone together for me since the days of my youth and I am passing this on to my children.  Growing up in Louisiana and Oklahoma made annual pilgrimages to Six Flags a summer ritual.  I remember standing in line to ride the Big Bend roller coaster and with great anticipation made the journey in 1978 to ride the Shockwave.  (The tallest roller coaster in the world, at least for a few months!)  Roller coaster fever hit its peak for me when in I stumbled into Cedar Point Park in Sandusky, Ohio in 1989.  The revolutionary Magnum XL-200 made its debut:  the tallest, fastest, steepest coaster in the world.  We stood in line for 2 ½ hours.  People clapped and cheered as they came off the ride, which lasts 2 minutes and takes you through a gambit of emotions:  anticipation, fear, elation, and faith.  Your stomach and head seem to collide somewhere around your throat as you plummet nearly 200 feet on the first drop.  Legs and feet are wedged and buckled in so that your hands can be thrown into the air in jubilation.  G-forces and moments of weightlessness add to the exhilaration of the experience.  Every part of you seems to come alive!    

I wonder if roller coasters are a good analogy for life.  It seems that life is often a series of ups and downs.  With some anxiety and even fear, we climb to the top of the first hill, not sure if we need to hold on for dear life or throw our hands up and celebrate the moment.  Our mind questions our sanity through the drops, curves, and loops of the track.  If only we could get off the ride!  Our faith, however, tells us to embrace the moment and take in all of the emotions and sensations of the ride.  We realize that it is the sum total of all of these things that makes the roller coaster so memorable.  Likewise, it is the combination of all of life’s experiences that make it so meaningful and precious.

Life is filled with its ups and downs, with good days and bad days.  Life includes great sadness and great joy.  We experience pain and pleasure.  We are born and we must die.  We deal with the known and must come to peace with the unknown.  We wrestle with doubt and find strength and courage through faith.  Life is a roller coaster!

The Psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  I believe the Psalmist is inviting us to embrace each day.  Some will be filled with pain and sadness; others will be filled with love and joy.  Most will include a combination of all the above.  Over the course of a lifetime, as we learn to embrace and live each day in faith, we discover how precious and significant life is, even in the midst of the drops, curves, and loops that life throws us.  Through faith, we find meaning and purpose in each season of life.  

And today?  The coaster is about to leave the station.  Will you grab on tight for dear life or hold your hands up high in jubilation?  Either way, I hope you have discovered how precious and meaningful life is.  This is the day the Lord has made!