When Your Life Feels Like a Roller Coaster

Thirty years ago my husband of two days put me on Space Mountain at Disney World. I say put because there was no way on God’s green earth I would have voluntarily climbed into that capsule of death and flung my life to the wind. I was tricked, blindsided, and betrayed. 

For two days, on many of the attractions at Disney, we had climbed into seats and fastened our belts. Some seats stayed in place and shook, pitched, and swayed dramatically without ever leaving the ground (the now defunct Mission to Mars). Others separated from their rows and carried us gently through misty prehistoric landscapes populated by audio-animatronic dinosaurs belching sulfuric gasses as we passed (ExxonMobile’s Universe of Energy). Still others ferried us from one cherubic scene to another as happy children sang “It’s a Small World.” 

It was my first trip to Disney World and our honeymoon week. Knowing that Disney was considered an “amusement park,” I made it clear to my new groom that I did NOT like scary rides. The most dangerous ride I’d ever been on was the carousel at Crescent Park. “No tilt-a-whirls, no Scramblers, not even a Ferris Wheel,” I explained, “and certainly NEVER a roller coaster. I’m a coward, and I plan to stay that way.” 

Initially apprehensive that one of the rides we went on might be too fast or too scary, I gradually relaxed and began to enjoy myself. My trust in my new husband grew. He had made a great choice for our honeymoon destination and was kind and patient with my limitations. 

Until Space Mountain. 

Since I’d grown up 1,000 miles away in New England, Disney World was the place where rich kids and their parents went on vacation. I didn’t know any rich kids, so I’d heard very little about the theme park. I had no clue what any of the rides were. 

My husband, on the other hand, had lived in Jacksonville. He had visited Disney World 14 times. He knew the park as well as he knew his own neighborhood. When he suggested it as a honeymoon destination, I was thrilled. 

That fateful morning we walked through the park hand in hand, eager to begin our day. “Let’s go here,” he said, pointing to a huge, circular white building that looked like an upside-down cupcake wrapper. Giant letters that spelled out Space Mountain adorned the pleated top. 

“OK,” I replied, following trustingly behind. Blind trust accurately describes the only reason I remained in that serpentine line winding slowly past signs that warned If you have a heart condition, do not ride this ride, and If you are prone to anxiety attacks, panic disorders, or fainting spells, do not ride this ride. Not even the sign that said Secure your hats and glasses prior to entering clued me in to what was ahead. 

Finally it was our turn, and the attendant directed me to the front seat in the front car. My new husband sat immediately behind me. I buckled in, the attendant checked my seat belt, and I settled back for the ride. Must be a constellation show, I thought, noticing that the room on the other side of the small doorway through which we would soon travel was dark. 

And that’s the last pleasant thought I remember. Hm . . . we’re going up . . . what’s that clacking noise? . . . it’s really dark in here . . . when does the narration begin? . . . all I see are a few stars . . . this is pretty lame . . . wonder why they call it Space Mouuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 

The seat dropped from under me, my seat belt grabbed me, and I hung, suspended between the hard cold car and eternity. I crashed down onto the seat, only to rise again, with only a length of belt and a flimsy buckle tethering me to my torture chamber. 

I wedged my shins against the front of the car to brace myself, smothered a scream, and wondered if two days of consummated marriage disqualified me for an annulment. I want to die, I thought. No, I want to live. I want to live so I can kill my husband. 

The fact that we’ve now been married for 30 years clues you in to the fact that not only did I survive my ride on Space Mountain, but so did my husband. When the longest ride in the history of Disney ended, he took one look at my white face, teary eyes, and scraped shins and realized he had made a serious mistake. “No roller coasters” to him had meant, “no scary roller coasters.” To me, it meant, “nothing faster than the tea cups and saucers.” 

He apologized. I fumed. He humbly begged my forgiveness. I silently ignored his pleas. He promised to never ever ever ever to do such a thing again, and I relented. We did love each other, after all, and it was our honeymoon. 

In November, to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ll be returning to Disney World, but that’s not why I thought of Space Mountain today. I thought of Space Mountain because my roller coaster experience reminds me of life. 

Life often chugs along smoothly. We have money in the bank, our bodies are healthy, and our relationships with friends and family are strong. 

But sometimes the sky grows dark. Uncertainty looms. The bottom drops out from under us, and we wonder if the slender cord we’re trusting in is enough to hold us. Worse yet, we wonder if the One in whom we’re trusting might not be worthy of our trust. Has He abandoned us? Left us in the dark to face our fears alone? Thrust us into the unknown with no way out? 

Even more unsettling, was it He who buckled our trusting selves into the very car that will carry us to our destruction? Have we been tricked? Blindsided? Betrayed? 

Thankfully God’s Word answers these questions for us: 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). 

“I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lam. 3:31). 

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7). 

If you feel like you’re on a roller coaster in the dark today, I pray these truths will comfort and encourage you. Remember, “the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

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