Can all of life boil down to fear?
This past summer I went to spend some time in Missouri with my brother’s family. They live near Silver Dollar City, an amusement park of sorts. This year they bought season passes, we took advantage of them on my visit. And you know what, this became a weird round about marker of God’s continued faithfulness to me in ways I rarely take the time to see.
In the past, I hated roller coasters. No, hated is not strong enough. I loathed and despised roller coasters. Between the unknown, the loss of control, and the fear of what twists and turns some tortured genius engineer put ahead of me on the track I was not a fan.
Then one summer on the way to Young Life camp we stopped at a Six Flags to break up our fourteen hour road trip. One thing I love about Young Life is the time you spend with high school kids as their mentor and leader. One thing I did not always love about Young Life is the time you spend with high school kids as their mentor and leader.
You see, sometimes high school girls wanted to go to football games or shopping which was great. But sometimes they wanted to ride big scary fast roller coaster that flips you upside down while your feet dangle below you. Not cool.
Because I knew how precious the time would be standing in line with kids talking, because I knew that them seeing me do something I hated would begin to earn their trust on new levels, because I am kind of a sucker; I rode a lot of roller coasters that day.
Not all of them, I had boundaries and knew when to say no. But you know what, something happened that day. That day I kind of got a rush from the unknown twists. I kind of enjoyed not being in control of what happened, kind of. I almost felt okay as I got locked into a roller coaster by someone who I hoped passed their safety test and deeply valued my safety.
Since that day I have been on many a roller coasters. Though, I still refuse to do anything that just drops you straight down time and time again. I know my threshold. But I don’t think twice before jumping on a roller coaster where my legs dangle, and I know we will go upside down and backwards. Heck, I often don’t even look to see what the roller coaster will do. I just blindly get in line.
Back to this summer. My brother, a methodical dare devil of sorts who I think will ride anything, and I gallivanted around Silver Dollar City jumping on and off roller coasters. My four year old nephew was not really tall enough to ride many of the rides, but often looked at the twisting tracks and spinning contraptions with wide eyes. He began to talk about how he would never ride most of the rides. He almost always had to be talked into a ride.
We came across the log ride on the blistering summer day. He instantly wanted to ride because he was hot and saw other people getting wet. Kid is smart. We checked his height (barely passed) and walked to get in line.
As he stood in line he began asking all sorts of questions about the ride. You could feel him starting to get a little nervous. Luckily, we did not have to wait very long for our turn. I had not gone on this ride in years and honestly could not remember what it was like. As we sat down, I realized there were no straps to hold you in. I grew fearful and wondered if this was a good idea.
But you see, I don’t want my nephew or anyone to let fear grip them. Reflecting back on my life I see how fear stopped me from so many things. Some wise (like taking cover from a tornado and NOT going outside to watch), but others silly. I did not do a lot of things because I was scared. I do not want others to be held back.
So as that weird fake log floated down the path and into tunnels, I held on to my nephew. We went through weird fake caves and tunnels. Our log banged against the side of the walls as it floated in and out of covers with curves and small drops. And then, our log clicked up towards the big drop.
The climax of the ride awaited us. We clicked up what felt like forever as I worried my nephew would actually fly out of this fake log somehow. When we stopped at the top I think I held my breath and waited for the drop.
As our log tipped over the edge, we began to head down on the track towards the bridge where people stand to get splashed. His little squeal and wide eyes will forever stay with me. We splashed into the water shooting up giant big waves onto the bridge. All of us still seated in the log together.
You see, that little four year old popped out of that log jumping up and down with laughter at the end of the ride. He wanted to tell everyone how brave and wet he was because he rode that ride. His joy and laughter radiated through the packed amusement park. Once his feet were on the ground, he wanted to go back again, which of course we did.
I want to face my fears like he faced his that day, without looking back.
Is there something in your life that you need to face? If so, maybe grab a friend and go do it. There is so much life to live. There is so much to see and experience. You might not love it all, but you will know what you love and what you don’t. Facing our fear allows us to refine ourselves while we broaden and deepen our experiences.
So this week, apply for the job. Go to the workout class. Eat alone at the restaurant you are dying to go to. Try on the outfit you love but don’t think you can pull off. Reach out to an old friend. Start the thing you are letting fear stop you from doing.
Take at least one step in faith knowing that you’re not alone. Be courageous and bold. God will meet you right where you are. He will begin to replace your fear with trust. And pretty soon, that roller coaster might just become something you long to do.
“Fear is contagious. Fortunately, so is courage. Learning to become fearless will touch everyone around you, and best of all, you’ll find it’s a gift that keeps on giving.”