Going over the cliff…

Life is sometimes likened to a rollercoaster ride. Imagine it being the other way around. Imagine living out all the highs and lows of your life in two minutes: you’re born, you get tickled by your Dad, you walk for the first time, you fall out of a tree,  hold hands with your first lover, have a fist fight with your best friend, have sex, see your first child come into the world, throw a wild party,  have some teeth pulled, climb a mountain, get hired and fired, wreck your car, surf in Hawaii, and finally slow down and die.

I’ve recalled the greatest highs and thrills of my life so far, and concluded that a certain rollercoaster ride was in the top ten. It seemed that I lived a lifetime in those few minutes – perhaps three minutes getting aboard and buckled up while feeling the fear starting to take hold of me (and everyone else),  thirty seconds  climbing the first slope, and then one hundred seconds of complete madness and mayhem.

The “Tremors” rollercoaster at Silverwood Theme Park is certainly not the highest or the scariest rollercoaster ride in the world, but it’s extremely intense and fast. Its compact size in conjunction with the height and angle of the first drop ensures that when it’s finished you will feel that you have been given an enormous thrill and a huge jolt to your nervous system.

So where does the “faith” part come in? Well, it’s at times like this when those who are not hardened to such things (like me) are so tested that faith is almost forgotten-overridden-if only for a minute or two. For this we can be and we are forgiven, since we are only human. Let me explain…

Unless you’re one who is used to tackling all that the amusement world has to offer, and you see each ride as a notch on your belt of riding experience, the preparation for the ride-the waiting in line at this popular attraction- is enough to get your fear level wound up to near fever pitch by the time your ride starts. You see the cars packed with crazy human beings dragged up the first slope, you see the nervous smiles  and the hands gripping the bars, you see all those people being led to some insane height… and then… the entire train of cars topples over the top and plummets like a missile into the earth, its terrified passengers screaming as one. They fly around the track so fast it’s impossible to follow them, and by this time they are concentrating so hard on staying in their car and staying alive that the screaming has stopped.


As you near the landing stage, there’s a nervous hush, even among perhaps a hundred or two hundred people. You begin to wonder if you might just have to back out and go on one of the kiddies’ rides instead. You see those in front of you getting into their seats, the bars set in place, the buckles tightened and double-checked. You hear the warning that this is an extremely intense ride. You see the signs informing you that standing up during the ride will separate you from your head…You start to feel that this is more like a device of torture than an amusement ride. But now you can’t back out…there’s a nine year old boy behind you, and he’s on tippy-toes so he won’t fail the minimum height test! If you back out now, you’ll look such a fool!

Maybe at this point you think briefly of God. You struggle to assure yourself that he’s right there. He wouldn’t let anything bad happen-would he..?

It’s your turn.

Bar down, buckle tight. It’s too late to back out… like having a noose already gripping your neck, with your feet over the wobbly trap door.

You conclude that fear and faith really make good companions, and you hold tight to that bar, and hunker down.

The little train packed with the damned, some still determined to appear relaxed and confident, begins its move and ascent. It’s so far up there…too far. The chain clicks and rattles, like some  medieval rack designed to unmercifully stretch you in two. I’m not good with heights at the best of times…

Totally alienated from all normal surroundings and feeling under imminent  threat and danger, fear takes over completely. Faith is forgotten.

At one hundred feet above the ground the train levels off…a slight sense of relief, just for a second. Suddenly the cars in front of you disappear, then  in disbelief and horror, you topple over the edge of that cliff, totally out of control of everything-including your mind.

Everyone gasps and screams and you think, “ I’m going to die! We’re all going to die!”

The one hundred and three foot drop seems almost vertical- so much so that as you go over the cliff your body is trying to float away.  And worse than that, at the bottom is a little hole that you are heading for. On my first time around that tunnel looked so small from the top that I was convinced I was going to lose my head. I ducked as low as possible.

Zero to sixty three miles per hour in two seconds. The train hits the bottom and launches upwards…it wants to throw you into orbit as it flies upward and then yanks you sideways. I was thinking, “Insanity! This is insanity!” I fought with all my might to keep myself inside the car, certain that the bar and buckle could not do the job.

Continuing that mad speed over humps and around face-wrenching bends, you watch the blur of wood, metal and unidentifiable flying objects speeding past, until at last, the train is suddenly slowed by brakes on rails. You have survived-you’re still alive.

Leaving the landing stage, you laugh with those around you. You begin to realize that you just had the thrill of your life, and it was worth all that fear. You’re glad you didn’t back out of the ride. You start to  think that you want to do it again. You talk about it for days. You write a blog post about your experience…


Not wishing to make a forced Sunday-morning sermon style comparison, I want to summarize a few observations in relation to the rollercoaster of life.

I once heard the results of a survey in which a number of elderly people were asked something like this:

“If you had life to live over again, what would you do differently?”

One of the top answers was this one:

“I would risk more…”

Some people live lives that are less like a roller coaster ride and more like a gentle ride on some smiling giraffes and zebras designed for babes and toddlers. If that’s how you want your life to be, that’s fine. But if you want your life to be rich and thrilling, you may need to gain mastery over your fears and step out in faith. If you don’t get on that roller coaster, you will miss out on the fullness that’s available. I’m not suggesting sin or encouraging irresponsibility here, but God has provided and allowed many ways for us humans to live a full and rich life while still being true to Him. Look for them, put your fears aside, step out in faith, and risk more.

You never have to stop enjoying life. My Dad, at age 86, with Parkinson’s syndrome, and after all the thrills and heart-aches he had experienced, told me, “I think life is wonderful!” He had lived his life to the full every step of the way. Some of my fellow passengers on the rollercoaster ride were at least of retirement age. One was a lady probably in her eighties.

God is in ultimate control of our lives, just as designers, operators and mechanics were in control of the rollercoaster, even when it seemed that the opposite was true.

Don’t expect to have perfect faith at all times: it’s impossible. There will be times when you will be so disorientated and feel so out of control that you will forget to have faith. But don’t worry, because God is faithful anyway. We are only human, and God knows that we are but dust. It’s not necessary to punish yourself or feel guilty when your faith fails.

In life there are many times that we feel that we are totally at the mercy of our circumstances. Life is leading us through a fearful time, and all we can do is hold on and hope we survive. But remember what David said:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

He didn’t say, “As long as I don’t have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…”

It’s the downs of life that make the ups into ups. It’s the fearful times which increase our faith, because when we come out of them, we see that our God was there with us all the time. And what did Paul say about the fearsome times of life? He said that God is far bigger than any trouble:

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, (nor rollercoasters) nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 37-39).

When we get to the end of our time in this world, and our Father puts the cosmic brakes on, we will begin to realize how wonderful our rollercoaster life was, and we will think that maybe we should have risked more…




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