The Roller Coaster

Most of my life is not laid out.  I don’t have one “paycheck” that is my primary source of income.  It turns out that a lot of “drivers” in the economy approach life the same way. 

Even when they are CEO of a company, they know that the average life expectancy of a CEO, even if you founded the company, is way short of a life time.  Way short.

We pass through seasons.  The economy is vanquishing many life-time jobs.  We will spend time “between” jobs, revenue streams, income(s), or sales. 

Translated: Roller Coaster. 

Roller Coasters are fun for some, nerve-shattering for others, life-ending for a few, and dreaded by many.  What makes one worthwhile, even fun?

Hope.  I have laughed to hear a number of women and even a few men (unscientific poll, not meant to be sexist) say, “I rode that thing so that he/she would think I was adventurous, fun, crazy, etc.  They rode the Roller Coaster hoping it would impress the person with whom they were riding and … something else would develop. 

Adventure.  “I wanted to see what it would be like.”  Afterward, many people loved it and rode again and many people had enjoyed enough adventure along that path to last a life time.  Never to do so again. 

Thrill sampling.  Some crazy people have ridden enough Roller Coasters that they compare the rides and live for the next thrill on one — “hoping it is at least as good as that one in ____ was; maybe better.” 

What no one talks about and everyone is loathe to mention is that some Roller Coasters dip into despair and crest in bleak outlooks.  War, poverty, divorce, bankruptcy, fatal illnesses all dip and crest in gut wrenching places.   Walking away alive is an amazing achievement.  Amazing enough. 

The response?  Many people engage enough to keep those nerves alive that go with riding Roller Coasters.  That is why sports are so HUGE in our economy.  We cheer and yell, knowing that few lives are at stake and, Lord willing, they line up and do it all again next year. 

Many people find the extremes and love living there.  Yosemite’s upper camp of climbers is packed with those people.  So is entrepreneurship, many NGOs, people planting churches and planting new lives. 

Many people disengage and live through media and cocoon — alone. 

I have been fortunate.  My cowgirl has ridden our Roller Coaster with me for over thirty years.  My sons (and daughter in law) are unafraid, and that is a gift.  My friends tend to live on the edge and challenge hard things.  And my students?

Every one of them is eyeing life and sizing up whether he or she believes he or she is up to the ride of a lifetime.  I end up talking about courage in class a few times, and even more often with them in small groups and individually. 

They seem to come with enough child left in them to not want to stand on level ground; unmoving all of their lives.  They seem to know that is an illusive thing to desire. 

Always Winter and Never Christmas

In the first installment of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, one of the creatures suffering from the grip of forever winter from the witch who rules Narnia bemoans their reality, “It is always winter and never Christmas” here. 

First of all the quote is dead-on.  One might think, “It is always winter and never spring,” would be better.  Spring ends winter!  Ending winter is better than something nice, a small reprieve from the depths of winter, right?

Read the children’s book.  It is literate, wonderful fun, and should be read to someone before his or her bedtime.  Spoiler Alert.  In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Father Christmas finally does come, spring and even more hope than that (Aslan is returning!) are on the way. 

Christmas comes in the shortest days, in the coldest months, ushering in a much deeper hope than warmer weather.  Christmas was when all of Heaven held its breath for the tiny child who must grow to die for our sins, and then return from the dead to certify what God was saying through Him. 

Always winter with no Christmas hope in the middle of it — bleak indeed.  I know no place where I desperately need hope than in the middle of life’s numbing cold or seemingly eternaly darkness. 

Which is why I ‘enjoyed’ Jon Wiese’s funeral this past Saturday.  I witnessed hundreds of people from both coasts and many states inbetween.  Past students had to be there in thanks for Jon’s investment in them.  His son and brother spoke for him, and cracked us up and made us cry. 

All on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, when we hold our breath after thanking God for dying for us in Christ, and waiting for Sunday morning, when we celebrate Christ’s rebirth from the dead. 

We live a lot of live on Saturday.  On Friday we trust that Christ wasn’t lying when He said He was God’s Son of Man or that he really forgave the people (me) for crucifying Him.  We thank God for dying for our sins, giving us a second chance, and extending us a love that is stronger than death. 

On Sunday, we pass from this world into the next, finally praying the Paul prayer, “I want to know You (God, Jesus) in the power of Your resurrection.”   That Sunday is when we finally, absolutely know. 

Until then, we spend a lot of Saturday(s) “in-between”.  We are in-between the great change that happened in us on Friday wherever we were, while we are not yet in that final, radical moment of dying and being translated into God’s presence.  

Saturday.  So now see Lewis’ metaphor another way.  Alwalys winter and never Christmas is the same thing as always Saturday, with no hope from Good Friday in my life, ambushing my pity parties, stopping my cratering, or vanquishing my depression.  Think about it.  When the first cool winds come, even before a tree has changed one leaf, children begin to look forward to — ta-da — Christmas. 

So is my hope on the long Saturday of my life, or sitting in the funeral for a great guy like Jon.  So is my hope every time a close friend passes through to Easter for himself or herself. 

So is my hope for you.