Tag Archives: Endurance

Rollercoasters.

X2001

I have a pathological hatred of rollercoasters. Here’s why.

When I was 21 years old, I flew off a freeway bridge in a car and landed on a major road 40 feet below. [Spoiler!] I survived, but needless to say I have loathed rollercoasters ever since. That feeling of your stomach dropping away from you and your limbs going limp above an enormous drop is specifically mortal to me. I loathe it.

However, I’m a mother and my two kids love rollercoasters. So, a few years ago, I succumbed and took them for the day to Six Flags Magic Mountain. My son was 7 at the time and fairly nervous so I, of course, pretended to be extremely confident.

Since I don’t even take the mini ones calmly, when they asked if we could ride X2 (the one that truly looked like death on a rail) I inwardly balked. “Sure!” I replied. “But it’s near the end of the day so we’ll only be able to do it once, OK?

As we approached the long line the children chatted excitedly while I drifted off into a catatonic reverie.

At the starting gate, my 9 year old daughter went with friends two rows behind me and my son.

“Just breathe,” I kept whispering to myself. My son looked as white as a sheet which was helpful so I concentrated on him instead.

“Look, G, it’s going to be really fun – and anyway very quick.”

“Really? Just very quick? Oh no!”

“No, no! Just the right amount of time really…”

We locked in. I always feel better in the ones that come down over your shoulders and not just over your legs to your waist. How can you not fall out of one of those? My knees press into the metal front as if somehow by force of will I can magnetize myself to the seat. But the ones with the shoulder bars coming down to lock over your chest do feel a lot safer. You can tell yourself there is no way you can fall out… you just have to hold on.

The cars started moving steadily up their long ascent: CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. It was hideously slow, as if they were enjoying it. I distracted G by remarking on the loveliness of the weather and encouraging him to enjoy the incredible view we now got to see.

“Look, G!” I said, reassuring myself, “Look at that! We’d never have seen all this if we hadn’t…” and we were OFF.

At an insanely death-defying (one could only hope) speed, straight downhill, twisting around, hanging upside down, shooting to the sky, falling to earth, going through fire, misted by water, surrounded by screaming, over and over and over again.

As soon as it began I went from calm, maternal presence to screaming madwoman:  “DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES, G!! DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES!! DON’T.OPEN.YOUR. EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYES!!!!” I was really saying this more to myself than to him but it sounds better if I say I was doing it for him.

When the ride ended four hours (probably about 300 seconds) later, I wanted to stay exceptionally still for a very long time. I had no voice from screeching, but I did have that feeling of having inhaled vast amounts of oxygen in a very short time.

I glanced over at my son who was all bright pink cheeks and sparkling eyes. “Mom!” he said. “That was AWESOME!!! Can we go again? Why did you keep screaming at me?”

Suffice to say they will never go on that ride again – with me.

I was reminded of this experience a couple of days ago when I was praying with a friend. I was processing how out of control my life feels at the moment (nearing the end of divorce proceedings, out of work, trying to spin all the plates) and she said that the Lord gave her a picture in prayer for me.

“It’s of a rollercoaster,” she said. “You are sitting on the rollercoaster with the kids beside you and you all have your arms in the air. The kids are having a fabulous time.”

Long pause.

“Well I absolutely hate rollercoasters, you know that right?”

“Oh no!” she laughed. “Well it’s probably not at all from the Lord then! Just forget it.”

But I said I’d think about it. And when I did, I realized it was absolutely a word from the Lord for me. As always,  it was stunning in its specificity and knowingness.

Because what I received from Him was this: I am on a rollercoaster in this stage in my life. All the parts are constantly moving, twisting, hurtling me round, turning me upside down, spinning me, scorching me with fire and misting me with water. And I HATE IT. I absolutely hate it, and the Lord knows it.

It was as if He was saying to me:

“I know how much you hate this ride, Josie. I know how much, and specifically why you hate it. I know it all, and I’ve got you. You’re on it with the kids and – in spite of everything – they’re still having a good time. They’re largely able to enjoy it simply because you’re there with them and you’re telling them it’ll be OK. Which it will be. Because I’ve got you.

Stay the course, Josie. You don’t have to enjoy it, you just have to endure it. You are safely locked in – bottom and top – in my arms and I will never let you go.

You can never fall out of my arms, my Josie, or fall out of my purpose. My purposes will stand for your life, and for the children’s lives. I am the faithful God who has brought you through everything this far – even the thing that gave you your fear of rollercoasters – and I’m not going to change now.

You don’t have to put your arms in the air and you don’t have to pretend before me. But I’ll tell you this. Because you’re completely safe in the midst, perhaps you can put your arms in the air in praise. Because the outcome of this ride is sure, Josie. There will always be rides to go on in your life but this particular one, just like all the others, will end.

Keep focused on the finish line, even as the course swerves and hurtles and pivots and dives and spins about you. Keep focused on that moment which is surely coming when you will splash heavily down into that final stretch of water and glide to a stop. And I will have been with you all along.

You don’t have to enjoy it, my Josie, and maybe you can’t. But if you open your eyes occasionally to the bigger picture, you will get views you never could have seen if I didn’t have you where you are.

You can trust me. I’ve got you.

I’ve thought about this picture constantly ever since. And you know what I realize? I realize that since I can’t get off the ride until it’s over, and since I can’t fall out and I know the end is sure, I can resolve to have an attitude of victory about it.

Even if I do need to keep my eyes tightly shut in the midst of it all.

Jsg/Mar 16

Survival is Victory.

Otter - surviving

An older friend was involved in a collision on the Freeway yesterday. Miraculously she and the motorcyclist both walked away but, when I called to check on her this morning, she had gone in to work.

Wait, what? If you escape physical injury, praise God. But there is still injury!

In crisis, why do we set the bar so high for ourselves?

As I prepare to turn my half-century, I can see on how many occasions I have done this in my own life. When no one else would have expected miracles from me, I have expected them from myself.  Why?

Our lives are wonderful, and difficult. Sometimes it feels like we’re flying, sometimes Life has the unmistakable appearance of being unendurable.

Yet we do. Endure. Why do we expect so much more of ourselves than that?

“Well, I survived the terrifying accident unscathed, praise God. Off to work I go.”

“Well, they didn’t die, so what have I got to complain about?”

“This isn’t going to kill me so, for the love of Pete, suck.it.up.”

I’m obviously talking about the larger things in life here. Things which are difficult to overcome. So why when the playing field is no longer even reasonably level, is it then that we expect so much more of ourselves? As if we are saying to our circumstances, “Oh YEAH?? Bring it on! It’ll take more than this to bring me down.”

Isn’t there strength to be found in calling something difficult what it is?

As Christians, we cling to the verse in Romans 8: ‘In all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us.’ Yet the longer I walk with Christ, the more I have been caused to reevaluate what conquering – victory – may look like.

Because it won’t necessarily be me standing on top of a hill waving a flag with a huge smile on my face. It might be much less than that though victory nonetheless.

What if sometimes victory is as simple as being able to say, “I’m still here. I’m still standing on the truth. I’m still listening. My head is still UP”?

What if victory is oftentimes simply survival?

In this period of my life, there are so many things I wish I were doing better. I wish I were stronger, wiser, more mature, more calm. If I measure myself against a bar higher than survival, I am clearly failing this season altogether.

But grace shows me that, in reality, I’m not failing.

I’m still loving my kids (imperfectly).

I’m still showing up.

I’m still feeding us.

I’m still moving forward. Painfully slowly or not, I am still moving.

And I still know my foundation:

I am still standing on a rock that no wave can sweep me off.

Am I enjoying it? No. Am I thrilling to the “adventure”? No. Can I find positive things to say about it everyday? No.

But am I surviving it? Yes.

And for this reason alone I want to shout at my inner critic, YES I AM, YOU BIG BULLY!!”

Because I am victorious, even now. And so – I bet – are you.

jsg/mar15

Waiting not wilting.

‘In the midst of life we are in death.’  So goes the Book of Common Prayer on which I was raised and of which I can still recite big chunks.

What a concept.  Death in the midst of life and, even more compellingly, life in the midst of death.  It’s both/and not either/or.

The key to acceptance must be to recognize that the two – by their very nature – coexist.  Nothing in our experience of life suggests that any of it is all life, or all death at any time.

Here’s my friend’s garden in summer last year:
John:kids garden

And here it is today:

John's house Feb15

The abundant life is ephemeral, but so is this death.  What looks like death or the absence of life is, in fact, not.  It’s on the way to new life already sown.  New life as yet unseen only because currently it is beyond what we can see.

In our garden, last year’s Christmas tree branches are drying out beneath our blossoming rosemary bush.  Death and life adjacent.

photo 1photo 2

By comparison the rosemary is so bright and fecund it is enough to make you blush.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

If God does this with all Creation, it must include us.  We know it does.  The cycle of life to death to new life.

If in life we must grab it, in death we must wait for it.  New life is coming.   It is already sown.  It is not absent because it is as yet unnoticeable.

I hold onto this: “God’s delays are not God’s denials.

Hold on; hold fast; hold out.

Patience is genius.

Let’s wait, but not wilt.

Wilting

All we have to do is drink enough water.
photo 2

Spring is coming.
jsg/feb15

How high can the waves get?

Lighthouse

Just when I thought my week couldn’t get ****ier…  Life does that, eh?

A picture that is very reassuring to me in my Christian walk is that the name of the Lord is a STRONG TOWER.  I run to Him and I am safe.  So no matter how high the waves get, my children and I are safe in the turret and the battle (or storm) raging around us cannot throw us into danger.

Here’s the picture I drew in my prayer journal last week to remind myself:

Strong Tower

However, on days like today, I am caused to ask, “Just how high can those waves get?”  You know you’re safe, you know you cannot be swept away by the force of whatever is coming against you, but… I have to say those waves are pretty daunting.  Awe-inspiring. Horrifying actually.

It made me think of a story my sister told me about a lighthouse whose windows at the very top were smashed in by waves but the lighthouse stood.  So I googled ‘lighthouse windows not smashed by waves’ and the results were stunning.

Here’s what I notice about lighthouses:

1.  They stand high up above the waves.  So in calm times they are easily visible, and in storms they cannot be overcome.  They, effectively, make a stand.

2.  In order for lighthouses to stand, they have to have been built with firm foundations on solid rock.  With good design.  And whoever built each lighthouse in such treacherous waters, risked everything to make sure it would withstand even the greatest forces that could be thrown against it.

3.  Because the lighthouse stands so high above the waves, its obstruction to the path of nature results in the most impressive battering.  Its very strength and height creates the greatest impact.

4.  And, finally, those who work in a lighthouse are wholly altruistic.  It must be terrifying at times, it’s not an easy job.  Their job entirely revolves around saving others.  Even if they chose it because they crave solitude, they have chosen a treacherous post to warn every approaching ship against danger.  That, seeing the lighthouse, every ship could navigate safely into harbor.

man-lighthouse

And so in watching lighthouses lashed by storm, I thought again about the immeasurable strength of the Tower I have made my life within.  Even the winds and the waves cannot overcome it.

The force of the waves is shocking, frankly.  The wind.  The rain.  The hail.  The spray.  The relentlessness of the power coming against me.  But that Strong Tower isn’t going anywhere.  I can feel it beneath me.  I can stand in its turret and look out on what comes against me and know.  Really know.  That no force – no force – can overcome my safety within its walls.

And so I am comforted even in the midst of storm.  And I pray, standing in that turret looking out at the waves, even as the salt spray bites my cheeks, that I can beam the light within that Tower to all approaching ships.  That they might avoid certain death on the rocks, and navigate safely into harbor.  Safely into home.

jsg/oct 14