Last Friday I left work about an hour early and we got on the road for a special 6 hour trip to Georgia to take the kids for their first visit to Six Flags. It was my first visit in about 25 years. I was looking forward to the trip like a little kid. I had some great times at Six Flags when I was a teenager and I was hoping to pass along some of that same fun to my little ones. It was a weird feeling walking through Six Flags as they had completely revamped most of the park since my teenage days, but still had some of my favorite rides. We all had a blast but I came to realize something about myself. Age has changed the way I experience things.
I will not recap every ride and every event for the entire day; but I do want to share my particular experience. I take so much joy from watching my kids experiencing the thrills and fun that I couldn’t stop smiling on the inside. I love the unbridled joy they experience everything with. Watching their faces as they came off of the thrill rides really made my day. I love seeing them embracing their fun
Other than my sense of nostalgia and the joy of watching the kids; the other takeaway for me was the change in my own experiences on some of the rides. I loved roller coasters as a teenager. My all-time favorite ride was the Mind Bender. I loved the speed and the adrenaline. When we would arrive at Six Flags we would sprint to the biggest baddest rides and ride them as many times as possible. I remember the thrill of jumping off of the rides with my heart racing cheering for more. I was sure it would feel the same this weekend as it did back then. Not so much!
We did run straight for the roller coasters and as we got on the first one I was surprised at my internal dialogue. I climbed into the car and I found myself checking the seat belt not once or even twice; but several times. As the coaster began it’s slow ascent up the first hill I wasn’t pumping my fist shouting yes! Yes! Yes!. In fact, I noticed myself actually with a pretty tight grip on the handle bar in front of me. I wasn’t cheering for the ride to start; I was trying to determine how long the ride might last. As we crested the first hill I actually felt a sense of dread. Once the hills and tight turns began; I enjoyed the ride, but not like I did back then.
The somewhat sad thing is; after we got off the coaster, I was no longer looking forward to all the other coasters. I was not in a big hurry to jump right back in line. There was no overwhelming thrill of adrenaline coursing through my veins. All I was feeling was relief that I made it off the coaster alive, unharmed, and without embarrassing myself. Throughout the day on coaster after coaster I experienced the same thing. Dread as the ride started and relief as the ride ended. I enjoyed every ride; but I wasn’t getting the thrill I was expecting.
Finally, it was time for the favorite of my youth. It was 8:30 at night and my brother and I had just sprinted across the park to make sure we didn’t miss the opportunity to ride The Mind Bender. This was going to be different, this was going to help me rediscover the thrill I had been looking for all day. We got there and got right to the front of the line. We got in our car and to my dismay I didn’t feel excited; I felt anxious. I checked the safety bar multiple times. I stared at the 2 loops and helix that waited for me and I felt this stupid sense of dread. We began our initial slow ascent and I was having to give myself a pep talk. When we were just about to the top of the hill I told myself “This is your ride; stop being stupid and embrace it”
Then it happened! We dropped from the height and started toward the first loops and I screamed "Woo hoo!” As we were turning upside down I started laughing and screaming “Yeaaahhhhh!” The coaster finally screeched to a halt; my heart was racing I was finally feeling the exuberance I had been searching for. We found ourselves as grownups, sprinting across the park like kids on our way to the next ride. I had spent the entire day giving in to fear and dread and I had not truly embraced the thrill of the ride.
It didn’t hit me right then, but as I thought more about it, I realized we do this too often in our lives. We get to be adults and we see every problem and we think about every negative outcome. Too many times we white knuckle the safety bar and pray for the ride to just end safely. When life throws us for a sharp turn or turns us upside down we can either close our eyes and put a death grip on the safety bar, or we can put our hands in the air and enjoy the ride.
I realized that if we are going to make a difference in our world. If God is going to use us to our maximum potential, we have to put away the dread and know that God is in full control of the roller coaster ride of our life. A great roller coaster has to be engineered, designed and built by experts. Every twist, every turn, and every loop have to planned and precise. We may feel like we are in the middle of chaos; but in fact we are always on a precise track.
God has not given us a spirit of fear and The Bible cautions not to give in to anxiousness Let’s trust that God has the entire ride planned to perfection, raise our hands up, and enjoy the ride.