When you stand in line to ride a roller coaster, there’s usually some anxiety or at least butterflies in your stomach as you wait your turn. You can see the path of the coaster and hear the screams of those being hurtled through the air. You know there will be highs and lows, even loops and corkscrews. When you sit down in the seat, the heavy bar comes down on your lap and clicks into place. You dangle your feet and wave your arms ~ the only parts of your body not restrained. A few seconds later, you find yourself climbing the first hill.
One thing is for certain ~ you cannot get off. Those same bars over your chest and lap that brace you in for your protection are the same bars that keep you from escaping. As you plunge down the first steep drop, you may scream, throw up, laugh or pass out. But one thing is for certain ~ the ride will be over in a matter of seconds. Compared to the rest of your life, the amount of time you’ll be on this roller coaster, is quicker than the blink of an eye. Yet you’ll probably remember this experience for years.
Today my Father and I found ourselves sitting in a roller coaster car with the heavy metal bars lowered onto our laps. The clicking noise signaled that the bars are firmly in place and they can’t be raised until the ride is over. My Father has absolutely no idea what’s going on but as usual, he has a smile on his face.
This afternoon we went to see the urologist about my Father’s high PSA level. After an exam, the doctor said he wanted to schedule a biopsy as soon as possible. He won’t say for sure if my Father has prostate cancer, but that’s what he suspects the diagnosis will be.
Of all the cancers a person can get, prostate cancer is the kind where it’s very possible to live a long life. But for someone who has Alzheimer’s, treatment options are not so simple. I can hop onto Google and read stories of men who’ve been hurtled through the air on this roller coaster ride and got off to live a long and full life. But there isn’t much out there about Alzheimer’s patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Right now, I can still dangle my feet and wave my arms. But we’re headed towards that first hill and I imagine the centripetal force of this ride will render my feet and arms immobile. Soon I’ll be bracing myself for a sudden drop and unless I want to emerge from this ride bruised and battered, I must hold onto something.
Every single one of us has roller coasters in our lives. Some rides last for months; others last for years. But one thing is for certain. As life slings you around from one steep drop to the next, you must hold onto something.
So what do you hold onto?
If you choose to hold onto yourself, to tap into your “inner strength”, your efforts will be counterproductive. Let’s say you’re driving a car and are so sure of your stability and inner resolve that you refuse to wear a seatbelt.
“I don’t need a seatbelt. I’m strong enough on my own!” you say.
Yet if a semi-tractor trailer spins out of control and heads straight for you, that seatbelt could mean the difference between your life and death.
I have learned that on my best day, I am not enough to get through difficult times unscathed. Nor have I found it useful to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Having a positive attitude is extremely helpful. But by itself a positive attitude is not enough because it isn’t tethered to anything but a fallible, finite human being.
If I want to emerge from this roller coaster ride in one piece, I must hold onto something that is stronger than the centripetal force of life. Something that renders every centripetal force powerless. Something that is constant, unchanging and has my best interest and my Father’s best interest at heart. That ‘something’ is really some One.
I am choosing to hold onto God. He knows me inside and out. He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for me. He is stronger than Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer. He knows everything about this roller coaster ride I’m now on. He knows the highs and lows, even the loops and corkscrews. He knows I may scream, throw up, laugh or pass out. But one thing is for certain ~ He’ll be with me to the very end no matter what.
So what do you hold onto?