Saturday, July 11, 2015

Roller coasters and other scary places

The Fireball roller coaster ride

I had three fun-loving brothers, creative in form and function. It was by the grace of God I survived childhood. But God used them, nonetheless, to teach this shy sister of theirs a lot about navigating through the scary stuff of life, the unexpected dangers and the enduring hardships. When we were young, I was always the selected partner in crime, partly as I look back on it now, so that I would share the blame, lessening the possibility of our dad killing one of them for their crazy stunts. But we made it through the harrowing turns against all odds, sometimes by the skin of our teeth. 

The stakes as a faithful sister rose a lot higher when it came to roller coasters.  When we went to the legendary Riverview amusement park in Chicago, I was the designated seatmate.  No one wanted to ride "The Bobs" roller coaster by himself. I didn't want to ride it at all. The Bobs was a old-school wooden rickety structure built in 1924. The cars literally rattled their way down the tracks. It scared me to death.  Now granted there were signs that warned, "Caution! Don't Stand Up," not even a consideration in my mind.  Seat belts did not exist in those days, but there was a metal bar in front to hold onto.

As the ride began, my older brother Bobby would turn to look at me and say, "Well, here we go.  Hold on tight!"  No instruction was needed.  My heart was already racing.

I held a death grip on that shiny metal bar, my knuckles white, my arms locked, and even my feet positioned to keep me from flying out.  I never could discern if it was worse to leave my eyes open to face the peril, or close them tight and face the unknown.  The Bobs was advertised as the most fearsome roller coaster in the country and the fastest on record.  There were only rumors that people died on this ride. But I had no desire to have my picture on the front page of the Tribune.

The train of eleven cars, hooked together, ascended a steep slope, its passengers distracted by the lights of the city, and then as it eased itself over the summit, it plunged 85 feet.  The screaming began.  And so did the prayers.

I couldn't imagine anything scarier.

The ride would come to an end.  I was somehow still alive.  And my brother would talk me into going again.

No one told me at the time that there would be a lot of scarier things in life than The Bobs.  I am glad I did not know.  God knew I would still need to breathe in those other frightful times in life -- those "You want me to do what?" places I never would have chosen, and in "I have no idea what to do" situations, when courage is scarce and all there is to hold onto is God.

Time after time, His deliverance came in packages I never expected.  And sometimes, it meant just gripping the bar and trusting God through it.  And there is nothing wrong in that.

Here we go.  Hold on tight.  Roller coasters taught me that.  And so did God.

For he held fast to the LORD;
he did not depart from following Him.
...And the LORD was with him;
wherever he went forth,
                          he prospered.

                          2 Kings 18. 6-7

God, the LORD, is my strength;
He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
He makes me tread upon my high places.

                           Habakkuk 3 19

That word "tread" is commonly defined as "to walk."  but it also can mean "to dance."  I love that verbal picture, to dance upon the high places of our lives.  Fear just makes me trust Him more.

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