What do the Screaming Eagle, Ninja, Batman, and ďLifeď, all have in common? They are all roller coasters! For years I loved riding roller coasters. The excitement, the anticipation, the adrenalin rush of fear, and of course the big drops and loops in different combinations, made it my favorite ride. The unsurpassed thrill though, was being able to complete the whole ride with my hands up and not touching the bar in front of me. Even if I screamed bloody murder, as long as I held my hands in the air through the entire ride, I deemed it conquered. I was victorious! Somewhere along the way, I noticed I didnít run to the roller coasters as quickly. I didnít ride get off only to jump right back in line. My roller coaster rides got fewer and farther between. One day, it dawned upon me that I donít especially like roller coasters that much anymore. In fact, the Roller Coaster of Life is one I wish I didnít have to ride ever again.
Thatís right! At the ripe old age of 47, Iím ready to get off the roller coaster. Iíve had enough ups and downs to last me several life times and itís not as fun as it used to be. After twenty-six years of marriage, raising seven children, scrimping to make ends meet on one salary so I can be a stay at home mom, one child moving to heaven, twenty-two years of home schooling, twenty-five years of being a pastorís wife, six houses made into homes, watching children graduate from high school and college, our last daughter born with down syndrome, celebrating the marriage of our first child, caring for aging parents, and entering into the exciting stage of grand-parenting, grieving when our daughter's husband abandoned her and the children, I wanted to scream, "STOP THE COASTER, I want to get off!"
I donít know where Iíd want to go. Maybe I should just stay on the train but ask the Lord if He could smooth out the tracks - ďso to speakď. I would pray- Ok- actually, beg-ďPlease, put me on a scenic train ride with full service comforts. Just make my ride a little smoother, a little less adventuresome, no loops or sudden drops.Ē In other words, He had my permission to make life straight out boring. I would love to just ride and enjoy the scenery for a while.
So I ventured to be honest. I told the Lord, ďReally, Iím serious. I donít want anymore transitions, surprises or ďadventuresĒ.Ē I settled back to rest and relax, feeling sure the Lord would agree with me and smooth out my path. The next week, I started a new Bible Study in the womenís group, called ďCaptivatingĒ by Staci and John Eldridge. From the first page, I loved it. She talked about the great desires of a womanís heart. The first great desire is to be romanced. Definitely! Thatís what Iím talking about ! Who doesnít love a romance and a happily ever after? Most women want to be wooed and pursued, then treasured and valued. God so graciously gives us a glimpse of this in marriage and in turn, it points us toward a deeper relationship with the great Lover of our Soul, Jesus.
I just knew I was going to love this book! I kept reading. Staci suggests the next great desire of a womanís heart is to unveil beauty. My heart quickened in agreement. Beauty refreshes our souls. Thatís what Iíd been missing in life! Life used to be slow enough to revel in the beauty of simple moments. Even in our fallen world and our fallen state, I perceive the creative splendor God lovingly graced me with. I yearn, (I think most women yearn) to be lovely, both inside and on our exterior. We desire to create exquisiteness around us. I long to become an oasis, a reservoir of beauty in a sick, sin devastated world. I want to be able to provide respite and refreshment to those in my life. It seemed like all I had time for these days were a quick look in the mirror with a promise, throw on some clothes and get going to accomplish everything that demands to be done in a day. Stop and smell the roses? Yes, I definitely needed to find more time to enjoy the dazzling things God has graced my life with. Be a reservoir of beauty, reflecting the magnificence of our Savior? I was doing good to just get through the day. Beauty takes time you know, and who has that kind of luxury?
Then, I read the third great desire. I stopped cold in my tracks. I backed up and reread it. Was she crazy? I reread it a third time. What did she just say? The third great desire in a womanís heart is to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure??? No way! How old was this Staci anyway? Obviously, she had only ridden a merry-go-round or the kiddy cars in life! A great adventure? Iíll leave that to Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Hadnít she ever read the signs they post at amusement parks? Especially the ones in front of the roller coasters.
Caution - "Some or all of our rides or amusements are not be suitable for patrons with heart conditions or neck or back problems, people with high blood pressure, at risk for strokes, or pregnant women. Please know your limitations. If you choose to participate, you do so at your own risk."
I put the book down and walked away. ďI donít want that at all,Ē I argued in my mind! ďI want security, calm - predictability! She really has no idea what sheís talking about!Ē I was actually getting angry at her ridiculous proposition.
A still, small voice whispered to my heart, ďBut what about when you were younger? Do you remember how you longed for adventure and excitement? Do you remember the anticipation of accomplishment, the thrill of tackling a new endeavor? Do you remember that feeling that nothing was impossible and that you could change the world with my love and power?Ē
ďThat was when I was young and naive. Iím older and wiser. I know better than that now.Ē I reasoned.
ďAnd tired and afraid?Ē came back the whisper.
I stopped. Tears started smarting my eyes. Yes, I was so very tired. I was afraid. I was tired of trying to ďbe allĒ and ďdo allď. Even though life was in reality, wonderful, I felt gut-punched. I had lost some precious loved ones to death, suffered through disappointments, and was ready to trade in a trial laden life for a trial free life- thank you very much. I didnít think I could handle one more ordeal. When had I started imploding? When had I started shriveling and shrinking away from life and itís challenges? When had I begun to live in survival mode?
A curious process began when He whispered to my heart. I cautiously examined the fears and worries I harbored. Presenting them before the Father, I felt some of the heaviness lift. He whispered sweet truths and revealed His total sovereignty and purposes for me, not only on this earth but throughout eternity. I finished the book Captivating and gained more insight. I read my Bible more. It seemed that every book and Bible Study I put my hand on in the next few years were specifically written for me. The chains of fear began snapping, losing their power and control over me. What can separate me from the love of God? Nothing. Godís word began renewing my mind and I began to gain an eternal perspective instead of a limited, earthly one. He began to stretch me so that I could hold more joy and faith than I ever thought possible. I wish I could say it happened in a day, a week, or even a month. It didnít. It has been a long, arduous process. But it did happen, and it is still happening. I am finding joy in my journey again and even find myself wanting a great adventure. I think I am learning, as long as He goes with me, Iíll ride any roller coaster He takes me on. If I do throw my hands up in the air, it wonít be because Iím on an adrenaline rush or that I have something to prove, it will be because Iím praising Him for the life and adventure He helps each of us to live!
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What a wonderful word picture of faith and freedom. As one who is terrified of roller coasters and decided long ago that I don't need that kind of terror in my life, I have been through many ups and downs spiritually and emotionally. Maybe on the next ride, I'll be brave and ride with my hands up!
I really love this mini autobiography. You are such a good writer, Cindy! Your lead paragraph and your final summary are simply perfect bookends to the body of your story. Even though I'm probably old enough to be your mother, I feel like we're kindred spirits (I'm a preacher's kid, eldest of eight, so I can really identify with so much of what you wrote about your life). Keep writing! Life is an adventure story, and only you can tell your own! I love you, new friend!