Faith, rollercoasters, and boats.

Life is at a crazy peak again.

Between kid and family drama, finals week with highly weighted comprehensive tests, and financial crunches threatening to cancel my next semester… I’m really feeling it. In the pit of my stomach, in tight muscles, in energy level, in short fuses.

And as much as they seem like normal responses to stress, I feel like I’m not supposed to be. I’m supposed to have this all surrendered and have it all wash right off without shaking me.

I feel like I’m supposed to be able to just pray more and try and pretend that it doesn’t bug me in the name of having faith because I know it all works out in the end in God’s plan, and that’s supposed to work and I’m supposed to be the unstressed victorious one walking around in a furnace and not even sweaty.

I’m supposed to have learned this lesson over and over and over recently, and not be bugged by it anymore when issues start appearing on the horizon.

Well, no surprise to anyone around here, but I’m not. It’s just not where I am, and trying to pretend otherwise just gives something extra to stress over.


But the picture came to me of a roller coaster.

Actually, a specific one I rode once, and very nearly vomited right in front of a friend and the big group of his close friends that we were with. While trying to pretend I was ok rather than admitting I have a weak stomach when it comes to motion. Not exactly a memory I tend to visit much.

But you know what? I had faith that I would be ok at the end of the ride. Even if lunch revisited, it might not be comfortable, but I would be ok.

I got on that coaster knowing that it was safe.

If I’d had any doubts about it, I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to get on it anyway, or would have been absolutely terrified if I felt my life was possibly in danger.

I knew the safety records were good… I saw many many people coming safely off the coaster while none were getting off injured… I had faith in the roller coaster and that the ride would be ok in the end.

And ya know what?

Not a bit of that faith mattered to my tummy.

At all.

My faith in walking off the coaster safely at the end did nothing at all to stop the adrenaline rush when suddenly gravity went all crazy on me and I was shooting what seemed like straight down at a very high rate of speed from what seemed like miles above the park.

Nor did it make my knuckles any less sore from how tightly I was clenching the safety bar.

If confidence in safety and a positive outcome were enough to resolve the scary feelings and physical reactions to the ride, who in the world would ride one?

What would be the point? Even the little bitty roller coasters for kids that only go 4 foot off the ground rely on the sensation from the feeling of dropping to have any effect at all.

Feeling the feelings… the rush… and coming through safely is what creates the experience and the thrill.

And so, I’m not so sure that life is all that different.

Yes, I have faith in walking off safely at the end of the journey, and maybe even that I’ll consider it to have been a positive experience.

But that doesn’t make my stomach tightening make any less sense or be any less of a normal reaction when I see a potential big drop rapidly approaching.

And I’m not so sure that it’s supposed to.

Yes, it takes the edge of terror off… by removing the “sting” of death. This isn’t a coaster that’s going to end with a fall into the pit of fire anymore.

But it’s still a ride. It still has drops and twists and flips.

Granted, the feelings that come from these are coming from natural flesh reactions.

But does that dismiss them entirely in the name of walking in the spirit not the flesh?

I think it’s fair to say that if Jesus was sweating blood knowing what was coming shortly before he was betrayed, that he’s clearly been very stressed… and to the point that he’s had physical reactions to it to an extent that I seriously doubt any of us will ever see.

If he can sweat blood approaching the final big drops of his roller coaster of human flesh experience, is it ok for me to have a pit in my stomach over much much smaller bumps in mine?

One of the stories that sort of annoys me sometimes at how easily it gets tossed out there as a token “get over it” is the story of the boat in the storm.

Jesus is napping, disciples are terrified for their lives… he reminds them who is in charge, stops the storm….

And somehow this means that since I know I’ll survive the boat ride, I should just be going on with life as usual and ignoring the fact that my storm isn’t stopping and that everything flying around the room on my boat doesn’t make it more difficult to, say, make a cup of tea.

Yes, I realize that I’m not going to die from the storms I face. Thus probably why I’m not terrified in fear like they were. It’s more a frustrated and seasick thing.

Yes, we aren’t supposed to live in terror when storms hit… even if they keep pounding even as we keep trying to pray them over.

But are we really supposed to just feel like everything is fine right now just because eventually we will be on dry and stable land?

Maybe it’s just my way of coming up with excuses for my moodiness right now… but I’m just not all that convinced that having more faith is always the pat answer for discomfort and disappointment and other such gloominess in spells of less than happy times.


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