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Straps and Rollercoastaphobia

December 19th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 24 (NLT)

 24 The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled;
      the hopes of the godly will be granted.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Fear is a powerful thing.  It motivates.  It cripples.  Some face their fears; others run from them.  As a youth pastor for all these years, I know a little bit about fear.  I could never recall the hundreds and hundreds of conversations I’ve had with students who were afraid for one reason or another.  College.  Career.  Relationships.  Temptation. Family.  Though some people seem to deal with fear better than others, it’s a given that everyone who breathes must encounter it.

No where else are fears more exposed than at theme parks.  My job has given me the privelege and the challenge of parading large groups of students across theme parks.  I’ve taken students to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia; King’s Island in Cincinatti, Ohio; Six Flags in Atlanta and in Louisville; Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana; and more.  You could say that I’ve been around the theme park block.  Now, I can always get students to sign up to go to these parks, but once we walk through the turnstyles, I quickly ascertain who in my group is afraid.  

Afraid of what?  Afraid of the most exciting features of the whole theme park experience (besides paying thirty-seven dollars for a small diet coke . . . thanks Mickey, but I’ll pass) . . . no, they are terrified of roller coasters!

Ah, roller coasters.  The behemoth contraptions of recreational delight.  The gauntlets of adolescent musings. The towering, twisting, turning torrents of terrifying . . . tantalizing . . . titillating . . . uh, fun.  (Hey, there are only so many words that start with “t”.)  I love walking through the gates and watching the faces of my kids to see who lights up when we mention roller coasters and who fades to the back of the group and hopes that we change our minds.

Besides my humility, there is nothing more that I pride myself in than helping people conquer their fears of roller coasters.  (Please tell me that you get the “pride myself in humility joke.”)  Many a life has been changed by my “gentle prodding” method of roller coaster counseling.  There is no roller coaster too large . . . no free drop too high . . . no line too long that I won’t give my all to persuade people to strap in and “ride the ride.”

I cured my wife, Laura, of her “rollercoastaphobia” in 2003 at Busch Gardens.  By the end of the day, she was forcing me to ride every one we could find that went upside down.  I cured a young lady named Makennah at Six Flags Over Georgia in 2007.  There are many, many others in my portfolio.  Some call it a gift . . . others think I’m weird . . . either way, no one can argue with the results.

The key to conquering “rollercoastaphobia” begins with the realization that it is virtually impossible for one to fall out of the coaster.  Now, there are isolated freak incidents out there, but millions ride every year and walk away unharmed.  Once someone sells out to the idea that being strapped in keeps them from most danger . . . that they have a much, much greater chance of being injured in a car accident than on a roller coaster . . . then they are close to conquering their fear.

Being “strapped in” is the key.

This passage deals with fear, but in a way we often don’t address in Christian circles.  Instead of a verse that encourages us to face our fears or to be confident that there is nothing to fear, this passage states that “the fears of the wicked will be fulfilled . . . ”  Well, that’s encouraging!  

Instead of laying out a laundry list of things that makes one “wicked” and another “godly“, I think that I’ll just simplify the concept like this: you have nothing to fear when riding a roller coaster unless you are not strapped in . . . in that case, you should be terrified because a gruesome death awaits you very soon.

It’s that simple.  Being strapped in keeps you safe.  Riding without being restrained and hoping you can hold on by yourself guarantees injury or death.  Being “wicked” isn’t just the presence of evil in our lives; it’s more about the absence of God’s grace . . . the lack of a strap to protect us.  Of course our actions will change once we encounter God, but no amount of “good behavior” can ever make us godly.  “Godliness,” in like fashion, can’t be grasped on mere human efforts . . . it requires that God be a part (hence the “God” part of “Godliness.”)  We don’t take credit for the straps that hold us in . . . we either buckle them or we don’t.

Fear is common to all people, but if God’s grace is the harness that holds us in, this roller coaster of life will be an adventure instead of a tragedy.  

Oh, and I’ll see you at the next theme park!



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