When I was 10 years old, my family took a trip to King's Island. We had been there several times before, and one of our favorite rides was the Red and Blue Racers. We loved it because it was scary, fast, and you could even choose the really terrifying option of going backwards. Even though my heart was always in my stomach during this ride, I was with my family, so I knew I was safe. I trusted that my parents would never put me in harm's way. We had also done this ride enough times that it was fairly predictable. Well, on this particular trip my dad decided to take this trust to an entirely new level. He decided if I could go on the Racers, I could handle the King Cobra. Let me just say, I had seen this ride...and I was not a fan. Who, in their right mind would seemingly stand up, hold on for dear life, be spun every which way and flipped upside down on a ride that was shaped like a terrifying slimy, deathly animal??? It was completely beyond my comprehension. But apparently my parents felt the need to strengthen my trust in them and help me experience more out of life. So I stood in line, clinging to my dad, crying my eyes out, sure that I, unlike anyone before me, would never survive this ride. I would be the first one to pay the ultimate price for such a foolish choice. My dad responded with a peaceful, calm demeanor, almost smiling at my panic, assuring me I would be fine and I would love it. I was not so sure. So I climbed onto the ride, right next to my dad, tears pouring down my face as I asked him to make sure I was tightly secured, clinging to my pink plastic glasses, praying they too stayed intact. The ride began; I cried harder. We crawled up the hill; I said, "Daddy, I don't want to do this!" He smiled and said, "You're going to love it!" I kept crying. The ride got faster as we took a sharp turn and plunged down a deep hill. I cried even more. We did what I never had a desire in my lifetime to do: we sped around a loop, upside down, suspended in the air, secured only by wheels on a metal track. What were my parents thinking??? Didn't they love me??? I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, not wanting to see the pending doom before me, clinging to those pink glasses as my head bounced all around. As we approached the last loop, I stopped crying for only a moment, but long enough to open my eyes and realize that I, a simple girl who was happy sitting underneath a tree reading a happily-ever-after book, was flying through the air, surrendered to mere mechanics and an over-the-head, padded safety bar, experiencing a rush of feeling I had never known before. An out of my control, unpredictable, adrenaline rush that I desperately wanted to end. In that moment I suddenly realized I wasn't going to die, and that this crazy unexplainable feeling was supposed to be fun and simply experienced, rather than understood and completely reasonable. The ride neared the end, we slowed down, and I slowly opened my eyes, reassuring myself that I was still alive. I sheepishly looked over at my dad, who wore a huge smile on his face and eagerly asked me, "Did you like it?" And with a slow grin creeping onto my face I said, "Let's do it again!"
This brief moment of my childhood has never left my memory. I experienced so many emotions in that three minutes that to this day I can still remember every detail. But it changed forever my feelings about roller coasters. After that one ride, I ran all over the park with my family, looking for every "upside-down" roller coaster I could find, seeking to experience that adrenaline rush yet one more time.
Many years later, it's amazing how that one experience of fear and faith has dramatically taken on an entirely different meaning as I seek to live a life that is significantly marked by a ruthless faith in my heavenly Father. The One who made me, loves me, and wants me to live the fullest life possible, only because of Him, and in spite of my fears and failures. I have come to see my walk with God as "the adrenaline rush of trust." No matter how many times I read it, learn it, or claim to believe it in my heart, I seem to be constantly surprised by the endless moments in life requiring surrender and my admition that I am not and cannot be in control. I am learning that when I exist in a state of demanding that I understand or should be able to comprehend circumstances, relationships, or emotions in my life, I'm really not experiencing life, or moving forward at all. Instead, I am standing in line, crying fearful tears, clinging to my pink glasses, insisting that if I cannot predict the outcome, that I cannot enjoy the ride. Essentially, I am missing out on the ride.
Another description of this image, as I have come to realize, is nothing short of foolish pride. In church this past weekend the pastor provided one point: "the way out of pride is dependency on God." He was referencing that humility, which we are called to live, is admitting that we cannot provide for our needs better than God, no matter how hard we continuously try. It is essentially proclaiming our desperate need for God, which He longs for us to do, so that through faith, we will grow in a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. Just like my dad wanted me to let go and trust that I would enjoy the ride, even without having done it before or being able to predict how it would feel, God longs for me to trust that He is for me, not against me, surrendering to the fact that He knows what's best for me, He will not harm me, and I can completely trust Him. He has specifically promised this. Psalm 56:4 says, "In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid." Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
In recent months this truth has been tested more than ever, as I have met and fallen in love with the man of my dreams. While this has very literally been the most joyful, surreal, prayerful experience of my lifetime, having daily interaction with a man I love in a way I never knew I could love, who loves me so well and wants to know every ounce of the deepest parts of me, has shaken the reality of how well I truly embrace the adrenaline rush of trust this life offers. In many life experiences, whether stressful, joyful, painful, purposeful, or all of the above, well-intended people often say, "Enjoy the ride." Yet, during the craziest, most exciting time of my life I have ever experienced, when fear, insecurities, weaknesses and failures pour out in all my humanity, I find myself looking for the "lazy river" to just hold hands and float around in, rather than eagerly embracing the adrenaline rush of a higher, faster, more unpredictable and riskier ride. I selfishly pursue a path that I can guarantee success in, that is within the realm of what I alone am capable of doing. Yet the heart of who I am, the girl who wants to live life and give to the fullest extent possible as it depends on God's strength in me, is struggling in this discontent because I know better. I know the life of letting go, realizing each emotion, receiving grace through each failure, acknowledging that I have weaknesses, depending on God in every moment, whether weak or strong, serving others in spite of my inadequacies, and admitting my need for His redeeming love, offers more crazy joy and unexplainable peace than I could ever ask for or imagine. The unshakable reality is that this joy and peace comes through my courage to surrender to the adrenaline rush of trust. Bottom line: I must let go. I must release my grip of wanting so badly to understand and appear capable, lovable, and without flaw so that I can receive and experience the love of my Father in heaven in a way I never knew possible and essentially, allow others to love me as well. He cannot choose this for me. He simply asks and waits for me to trust, offering me a life not stifled by the realm of what only I can do, but awakened and expanded by what He can do.
This man of my dreams, who is the love of my life often says, "Trust the love." First God's, then his for me, in an effort to get me to just keep living, rather than taking a pause of emotional breakdown and sensitivity every time the truth of my imperfections comes to light, which unfortunately, seems to be a regular occurrance. My excuse of "I'm a girl," can only cover so much emotion. When I am honest with myself, I must admit that I desperately do not want the lazy river life. I do not want to go through life with the opportunity to serve and know my all-powerful creator, yet be blinded by my prideful desire to "get it together," essentially, to get to a place where I am self-sufficient. This is the detriment of relationship in any form. Humility comes through dependency, not a proclamation of independence. Not only that, but the celebration of life itself comes when we recognize and embrace the gifts of others, also uniquely created by God, and allow their significance to challenge and enrich our own lives. Thus far I have had my moments of fearfully getting on the ride, experiencing different moments of the adrenaline rush of trust that is my life. Yet the opportunities will not cease as long as I am breathing. While I might get off one ride and be on the more mild walk to another, they continue to come.
So now, as God has answered years of prayer with a man who is immeasurably more than I could have ever asked for or imagined, who is holding out his hand, asking me to join him on the greatest ride of our lives that God has created and will inevitably display his glory through, I am faced with the question. Do I stand on the sidelines and cry, thinking, "This is unknown, unpredictable, scary, and filled with the risk where my imperfections will be exposed; I am weak, I am afraid, I will fail; I will be known and experienced like never before, and I will know and experience like never before; God has given me my heart's greatest desire and I desperately don't want to mess it up; I cannot do this on my own; I cannot know what is to come,"? Or do I carefully and prayerfully step on the ride of a lifetime, embrace the adrenaline rush of trust, release my grip, raise my hands in the air and declare, "I trust you Lord, in a way that is beyond my own understanding. This is not about me or for my own glory. I will not let the enemy's lies steal my joy. Life inevitably offers the element of surprise, but you wrote the beginning and know well the end. I pray you go before me and grow within me, be my strength and my vision. Help me trust you first in this moment, then the next, surrendering my ability to understand or be without failure, instead resting in the fact that your grace is sufficient and your purpose will prevail. I realize that often the greatest risks, steps of faith, and opportunities for hard work offer the greatest rewards. I admit I cannot do this on my own, and this is not about my happiness or pleasure, but your glory. This is not something I deserve, but a gift you have graciously given for me to enjoy and daily delight in giving back to you. I do not know the conclusion, but I choose to embrace the adventure. I want to live. And I will live and love for you and because of you!" This is the adrenaline rush of trust. This is full contact life. I choose to live. I choose to love and be loved, as I am, because of who made me for the very purpose He is giving me. So I am wiping away the tears and buckling into my seat. And even as I creep ever so slowly up that first hill, while my heart is still traveling to my stomach, I choose to be grateful and and not let the weakness that is in me steal my joy. For the "joy of the Lord is my strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) And as I choose to depend on that strength, I choose to embrace the adrenaline rush of trust of the adventure of a lifetime. I choose to enjoy the ride.