You know, I can’t honestly say I’m one of those people who lives to visit an amusement park. I’ve been to a few in my life, and I’m glad I had the experience; but I probably wouldn’t lose sleep if I never got to go again. I’m more of a “see the historic sites” person. There are people, however, who will plan their vacation around visiting this nations’ finest thrill ride parks.
I guess I got over it early. My brother, Don, or Donnie as we called him, is 15 years my senior, so it’s no surprise that by the time I was in kindergarten he was dating. He and I were always pretty close. How could you not be close to a brother who would set you down on top of the refrigerator and walk away as if never to return, leaving your little legs kicking the air to a chorus of “let me down”? Of course, he never went too far and I always knew I could jump off into his waiting arms. I trusted him, despite that wicked laugh.
So, I guess it wasn’t too much of a stretch for him to ask mom if he could take me along when he went to The Highlands…..with his girlfriend. Oh, not the Highlands of Scotland….St. Louis’ famous old, now defunct, amusement park. Looking back, if I had to guess, I would imagine that was not the most popular decision he had ever made while dating: “Here, let’s take along my snot nose kid sister.” Yeah, that’ll be fun.
There are three things I distinctly remember about that day….crossing a Mississippi River bridge that had a sharp turn in it (what cross-eyed engineer designed that thing?), pink cotton candy in my hair and sitting stopped at the very top of what had to be the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (or so it seemed to someone less than forty inches tall.) I’m not sure how long we were parked up there, but it seemed like an eternity to wait and a long drop down. I wanted my mommy….and I wanted her NOW. Well, obviously, we made it safely down or I wouldn’t be tapping this out on my laptop.
In my traveling days I spent plenty of time playing and singing on truckbeds at state and county fairs and various festivals that always seem to be linked to produce (Horseradish, Strawberry, Watermelon), but I don’t remember ever being tempted to take a turn on very many of the thrill rides. Okay, there was that one time someone I’ll call Ginger (because that’s her name) dared me to ride the Screaming Eagle. I did it. I hated it. I won’t do it again. It’s odd. That was my experience, yet others get off the roller coaster…their hair standing on end, teetering as they walk, ready to do it all over again.
How about the swing rides? Oh, they look relaxing when you first see all the little swings hanging down, nice and polite and on their best behavior; but when the beast takes off, you find it’s not a graceful swan but a raptor as it hurls you by a chain at highway speed 20 stories in the air.
Of course, there are plenty of rides to choose from if roller coasters and thrill rides aren’t your thing. There are rides that stay on the ground, but can shake you up or flip your stomach. Try the Tilt-a-Whirl if you like being spun around and moved up and down simultaneously, jerking at unpredictable speeds and patterns. There’s actually a name for it. Mathematicians call it “chaotic motion”. (Really? We needed a math guy to tell us this?)
If I close my eyes, I can see the midway of all the parks and fairs I’ve attended. I can smell corndogs and popcorn and stale sweat from too many hours in the July sun. I can picture the bright lights flashing as the Octopus flails its “tentacles” full of screaming passengers to the mechanical strains of calliope music. I see painted horses with smiles carved in their wooden faces taking turns bobbing up and down as the merry-go-round gives a kinder/gentler ride to the little ones. (That’s probably more my style. I’m like the guy in the pharmaceutical commercial who’s coasting down the road in a plane because “steady” is good!)
Some amusement parks have what used to be called a Rotor, or a Gravitron. It’s an upright cylinder that rotates at a speed sufficient to create centrifugal force. When the appropriate speed is achieved, the floor retracts, leaving the rider stuck suspended until the drum slows down, gravity takes over and makes the rider just slide down the wall. (How humiliating.)
These “conventional” rides are too boring for some folks who prefer to zipline over a gorge or bungee jump above a raging river.
No matter your choice of ride, there are plenty of mechanisms to make you frightened, dizzy, wobbly, disoriented and downright sick. Yet, people pay for this abuse….and are glad to do it. They get in line time after time after time to experience the same indignities, perils, and fears. Why? It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating. There are bragging rights to be claimed like, “I rode the Top Thrill Dragster and didn’t throw up!”
This is all very curious to me. How is it that people who volunteer to be subjected to centrifugal force equivalent to three times the force of gravity, who delight in being dangled by their heels over a precipice, who shriek with joy as a fiberglass cart on rails built by the lowest bidder rises to breath-taking heights, then plummets hundreds of feet in seconds, will so easily say when life gets rough, “Why do I have to have all these problems? If God really loved me, life would be smooth sailing.”
Let’s face it, life is filled with mountains and valleys, good times then precipitous drops and jerking twisting turns of events that jar the senses and whiplash the emotions. Disappointment and frustration make you feel like you’re just moving in circles, going nowhere, while others look on from the safety of their success. Heartaches can leave you dizzy with concern, disoriented with fear and, frankly, sometimes it just feels like the whole bottom has dropped out. All you want to do is just get off this crazy ride called Life. I have to ask….where’s the sense of adventure then?
Isn’t the same God who brought you here able to keep you? Why are we so quick to head for the exit when life gets tough? Aren’t there some “bragging rights” to hanging on?
I miss the old-time testimony services at church where saints would stand and brag on the Lord and what He had done. They would tell how their health was hanging by a thread, how they didn’t think they would make it through, but the Lord brought them out. They would tell how their finances bottomed out with the loss of a job. Their home was in danger, but the Lord stepped in just in time and saved the day. Some would tell how they’d been seized by fear and dread, but the Lord never left them and set them down safely on the other side of their trouble.
What if…..just a thought, what if we looked at this walk down the midway of life more as an adventure than an ordeal? I can see you pursing your lips. “My life”, you say, “is no amusement park and I’m not one bit amused.” I totally get it. I’ve been there. All I’m suggesting is a little perspective.
You know, I can’t recall any guarantee when I rode the Screaming Eagle or any other thrill ride for that matter, that I would survive to tell the tale. All I remember anyone saying is “Keep your arms and legs inside the compartment at all times and DO NOT get out from under that restraining bar.”
God, on the other hand, has promised that if we stay in Him, covered by His blood, we will arrive at the disembarking station safe and sound. The key is staying in Him. So dig in…hang on, for though we may be at a low point now, it won’t be long before we’re flying high. Yes, it’s certain we will dip low again, be jostled around, be tossed from side to side, but we’ll coast in just fine. Oh, we may be a bit wobbly, but, oh, the stories we will tell!
Life…..what a ride!