Rollercoaster Reflections

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“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31-33

My son has always enjoyed rollercoasters. When he was growing up he had a notebook filled with pictures of rollercoaster ideas and designs. At one point in his life he imagined himself building rollercoasters and realizing some of his designs. Though that was not ultimately the path he took, he still loves a good roller coaster ride. When he was eleven ears old, as a member of “American Coaster Enthusiasts”, he was aware of their annual rollercoaster convention (yes, there is such a convention…). He spoke to his mother about attending and she immediately brought the proposal to me. It ended up that my son and I attended the 1991 American Coasters Enthusiasts annual convention, which thankfully happened to be in the state of California that year.

The schedule of the convention was fairly straight forward. Our convention fees gave us access to several amusement parks that specialized in thrill rides, namely rollercoasters. As convention participants we were invited to enter each park early before the general public and for two hours ride the latest and greatest rollercoasters available. Some of these rollercoasters had enormous hills, some included loops and spirals and some were just old-fashioned wooden coasters that seemed at any moment might leave the designated track. I remember riding some of these thrill rides seven or eight times in a row. On one coaster, after being looped, spiraled and thrown over the edge of a nearly vertical incline, I felt like my eyeballs were continuing to spin around in my head. Needless to say it was wise for me to take a short break after the eighth ride while my son rode another seven times. Oh the joys of youth.

People who truly love rollercoasters don’t seem to mind the intensity and the sense of danger that accompanies the experience. Often they are the ones with there arms wildly flaying in the air. I tend to be a bit more reserved and find some security in holding on to the bar in front of me. It is a “hold on tight” moment and probably is where the term “white knuckler” originated. It gives me the illusion of some control over my fate in the face of danger. Because of my fear I’m developing a pretty strong grip on that little metal bar.

Fear tends to cause me to tighten rather than loosen my grip. When I am afraid I attempt to hold on and retain control by latching on to what I perceive is secure. Often this holding on is focused on the ways and means I have grown comfortable with in this life. They are the things I’ve used to define my life, or the things I’ve relied upon to make me feel secure, good and important. But it is my fear of somehow losing out, seeing my life dissipate that causes me to hold on ever tighter to what I have or think I have presently. I am attempting to preserve something that was always in a state of perpetual decay.

Often, that which I am attempting to hold on to is the illusion I have about myself, my own grandiose self-perception. I want to be seen as important, essential, significant to the present and future conversation. To think that I may not be significant surfaces all sorts of management and control issues. Fear motivates me to hold on, but I may be holding on to a false security, something that cannot be sustained over time. The tight grip that manifests my fear always impedes my freedom to enjoy life.

It is similar to watching people ride a roller coaster. Those who let their fear become primary are characterized by the white knuckles of an intense grip, while those motivated by freedom are characterized by arms held high in the air screaming with delight on every hill. They let go and enjoy the ride and receive it as a mystery to not be controlled or managed. The Scriptures refer to fear and worry often as responses to be overcome by faith in God’s extraordinary love and care. Jesus says to the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount that we need not worry about our needs because God knows each of our needs and is fully capable of meeting those needs beyond our expectations.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30

The counter-active agent to fear is faith in God’s loving provision for all He has created, humanity being the pinnacle of that creation. When we exercise faith we can live the freedom of those assured of His care and provision for all they need. But when we choose to allow our fears to best us we find that life becomes small and restricted by our attempts to control and manage our world. Life is like a rollercoaster with all its twists, turns, ups and downs. We can either tighten our grip in a futile attempt to control our circumstances or we can open our hands, let go and trust that out lives are in God’s strong and secure hands. We can live the wild freedom of those who have loosened their grip and trusted in the strong grip of God. My suggestion to you this day is that you practice loosening your grip and opening your hand, trusting God’s care and seeking His kingdom. May you discover the immensity of His love and gracious care as you trust in His grip this day. Here is a song to encourage your trust in the ultimate and unwavering care of Jesus in the midst of this tumultuous ride. Blessings.


2 Comments

houten tafel says:

September 11, 2021 at 7:36 pm

Email sent by Fr. Ed Stewart on his departure from SHU: Early on in the pandemic, Father Tony asked Campus Ministry and Volunteer Programs staff to come up with a way of reaching out to the wider SHU community during our dispersal. With that, the daily My paper reflects on my time during the COVID-19 pandemic. I told my personal experiences and moments that I have been through. From March to September. I also related how the COVID-19 pandemic relates to The Bubonic Plague.

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driezit says:

October 11, 2021 at 3:15 pm

Class assignment Western Civilization. 5 year embargo applies. I had my last day of high school without even knowing it. Never getting the opportunity to say goodbye to all my teachers or friends was heartbreaking. These people I grew up with my whole school life I won’t get to see until maybe my 10-year reunion. My Covid-19 reflection. Spending time with friends and family, traveling, and just being able to experience life have all been put on pause for who knows how long.

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