Rollercoasters. Just the word stirs fear in some people. For others it stirs adrenaline. Those in the first category may feel queasy. Suddenly what they ate for lunch isn’t settling all that well. Those in the second category, on the other hand, may start to smile–almost an evil smile–and they cannot wait to experience the thrill of anticipation as they crest the top of the first peak. The twists and turns are the same for both groups; it is the reaction that is different.
I fall into the second category of people mentioned above. I have yet to meet a roller coaster I didn’t enjoy nor one that I wouldn’t try. I’ve ridden wooden roller coasters–coasters so rickety that the rider was sure the entire apparatus would crumble before the ride ended. I’ve ridden steel coasters that drop the rider at breath taking speeds and terrifying angles of descent. I’ve ridden stand up roller coasters–they even looped. I’ve ridden coasters that the riders all traveled backwards so no one could anticipate the next curve or drop. I’ve ridden free fall coasters. To this day, if given the opportunity, I would try any coaster out there.
Why all the talk about roller coasters?
I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, and how life is much like a coaster. There are terrifying moments of speed and unanticipated curves that seem certain to throw the rider from the car. Life, like coasters, has peaks and valleys. Until a few years ago, the highest elevation I had achieved was at the top of a roller coaster. Growing up in Western New York, I didn’t have much exposure to mountains. I spent some time in the Alleghany Mountains, but I did not realize that, compared to other places, Alleghany was more like a collection of large hills. I realized that when I was given the opportunity to chaperone a high school marching band trip to Colorado. On one of the days there, our tour bus took us up a winding mountain pass to Rocky Mountain National Park. (For some, the ride itself was as terrifying as any roller coaster!) The temperature in the valley below us when we departed was in the 90’s. The temperature when we stepped off the bus in the park was in the 50’s. There were steps to climb even higher up the mountainside. Of course I had to give it a try. I found that as I ascended, the air was different. Those with more mountain experience than me explained that the air got thinner the higher we climbed. There was snow on our way up. It was July. I had never seen anything more beautiful in nature than the Rocky Mountains. When I reached the top of the steps, (as high as the park would allow climbing) I nearly burst with the invigoration of what had been accomplished and the view before me. As I started the descent back down to where the bus was waiting, I noticed that the closer I got to the bus, the more difficult it became to continue. I’m sure some of it was because I was exhausted from climbing as well as chaperoning over one hundred high school students, but there was something else working against me. The air was thick and seemed to be resisting my walking through it. I noticed it even more after the bus took us back down the mountain pass and we were back at ground level once again. At times it felt as though there were weights in my shoes that kept me from moving forward.
The Christian life has mountains and valleys as well. The mountain tops are amazing! There is a sense of peace knowing that something has been conquered. The valleys, though, are tough. Each step takes concentrated effort and at times, it feels as though one just cannot go on. I know because it seems I am in a valley right now. I look back several months and I remember the peace and excitement of the mountain I was on. I no longer have that peace or excitement. In fact, at one point today, I cried as I sat on the floor of the bedroom, and told God that this was just too hard–I just could NOT DO THIS ANYMORE. There are too many things on my plate–things that keep me awake at night. I wonder how things are going to be worked out in the lives of my kids, in our marriage, in our finances, in our spiritual lives…the list goes on. I look around a house that desperately needs attention yet know that I just am unable to do as much as I used to do. I look inside myself and see emptiness and loneliness as I wonder where I fit in anymore. I long for someone to talk to–someone who has been where I am and understands the depths of what I am feeling. There is no one to be found. The loneliness is accentuated and the pain is almost unbearable. Tears. I picture, once again, Jesus catching all my tears and putting them in a bottle. Perhaps he will pour them out as rain or snow when I finally meet him. Maybe He will simply show me the giant bottle of tears He has collected and reassure me that He did indeed see every one.
Today as I was driving through Wisconsin, I plugged in my MP3 player to listen to some music. The following lyrics met my ears and began to melt my hardened heart:
“Love came down and rescued me,
Love came down and set me free
I am yours. I am forever yours.
Mountain high or valley low,
I sing out and remind my soul,
I am yours, I am forever yours.”
The valley is not fun. The view is dark and the walk is tedious. I miss the mountain. But, even in the valley, I am His. Others may shun me, but Jesus does not. He sees my tears.
And He cares.