My kids appreciate a good roller coaster. So much so, our summer vacations have transformed into season passes to our nearby amusement park. You can find us in line almost every weekend with our bottomless Sprite and bucket of popcorn, ready for whatever is coming next. My girls are in love with the thrill of the coaster.
Me? Not so much. I love taking the kids. I love seeing them get excited when they have grown enough to get to the next ride. I love the look in their eye after having done something scary and living to tell the tale in as much detail they can muster. I, however, would much prefer to keep my feet on the ground.
There are some I do like; the ones with gentle swoops and ups and downs. The ones you can see ahead so you know what’s coming. The ones that don’t jerk you around but instead keep you tight as you glide and laugh. But those are few and far between. Most roller coasters are designed to keep you guessing. They want to make you unsure of yourself as you climb and drop faster than you can process. They jerk you back and forth and make it so you can’t get your bearings. You start out enjoying them, but there is always that moment you wish you could get off and ride the Merry-Go-Round instead.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Hope sucks. I’ve thought about it for weeks. How would I describe hope? It sucks. It’s a stinkin’ roller coaster and for every moment you have of optimistic expectation you have equal, if not more, feelings of dread and despair. In order to really experience hope, you have to actively engage in it. It requires us to get in line and to say we are choosing this. And maybe that’s why I don’t often. Because I know when I choose hope I am also choosing periods of fear and disappointment. I am putting myself on a path I didn’t create. I am linking arms with faith and relinquishing control.
And I hate to give up control.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
This is what I heard in whispers, replayed over and over in the back of my head just a few weeks ago. This thing I had given up, walked away from, laid down, and handed back to God was showing up. I had no choice other than to hope. And in that beautiful moment of hope blinded by the light of possibility and all the things yet to come, I jumped into line, found a seat on the roller coaster, strapped myself in, and started to move. And just a few days ago I remembered what this hope thing was really all about and prayed unsuccessfully to get off.
I am still in the middle of the coaster ride, unsure of how this is going to turn out. I’m being whipped back and forth from the velocity of the ride and it is taking some unexpected corkscrew turns I did not sign up for. I know it is unrealistic to expect a life without twists and turns. Even on my best day I’ll never be able to actually control my life. It is here I realize I have been hoping all along . . . I’ve been hoping I’d be able to stay in power, but this kind of hope doesn’t produce results, it leaves you standing in line giving only the illusion of progress.
So today I am going to enjoy the ride. I am going to unclench my fingers from the restraints keeping me in my seat. I will open my eyes as the scenery goes whizzing by. I will feel the force of the air take my own breath away. I will raise my hands up in the air and enjoy the ride.
And I will hope.