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FOCUS – Let the roller coaster ride begin

by Amanda Reardon, Captain

by Captain Amanda ReardonIt may sound foolish, but one of the most jarring, reality-adjusting, paradigm-shifting concepts that ever penetrated my life came from a line in the movie Parenthood. Toward the end of the movie, the main character complains at length to his wife about how messy life is, how nothing ever goes as planned. His grandmother, half-sage, half-crackpot, interrupts his tirade to comment that when she was a girl she always enjoyed roller coasters. Some people preferred more sedate rides, but she loved roller coasters. The viewer and the characters perceive that grandma’s unsolicited remarks are a metaphor for life. The husband returns to his diatribe, until his wife finally yells: “I happen to like the roller coaster, okay?”

The first time I saw this movie, as soon as the wife made her protest, it was as though scales fell from my eyes. In fact, I have rented the video on several occasions just to get a little perspective back into my life. The words that character uttered instantly made me realize how blessed I am.

I have always tried to line the ducks of my life in a neat little row. But they seldom stay in that row. “The best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft agly”—which, according to my high school English teacher, means that things rarely happen as we plan. Life is messy. Some people face the messiness with humor and adaptability. My husband is like that. But by nature, I am quite different. If everything in my life is not orderly—even exemplary—I walk about wringing my hands, wondering what is wrong with me and everything connected to me. It’s horribly egocentric and sucks the satisfaction out of life.

How liberating to think that I might be able to enjoy the ups and downs of life! I don’t think any sane person would wish or plan for the “down” times, but they are a part of the ride. What is the joy of a pinnacle if one has never known the pit?

Romans 8:28 says: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I can’t imagine my life without some of the hardships I have faced. Some were sent by God. Others were the result of my own foolishness. Yet God used all of those experiences to mold my character, to hammer out flaws, and to point to his greatness in the face of my weakness. And at the end of the day I have to admit—so far it’s been a thrill. Without the highs and lows, my life would have been much more like a tram ride. Big deal.

The scene that follows the bit of the movie I described is my absolute favorite. The husband and wife have gone to their children’s elementary school to watch them in the school play. Something that happens on the stage prompts their pre-schooler to respond. He leaves his seat in the audience and hops on stage. His motive is pure, but the little boy manages to demolish the entire set of the children’s play. It is absolute chaos on the stage. Every parent viewing Parenthood knows that the boy’s parents should rush to the stage and cut the antics short. But the parents, who have recently discovered that they love life’s roller coaster, remain in their seats. They laugh, enjoying the moment, savoring the humor of the unpredictability of life.

Once in a while, when I see my children doing something a bit crazy, I think about that movie. And, as long as no one or nothing is being hurt, I refrain from restraining my boys. For example, the day Wes and David discovered that they could slide down the stairs on a skateboard with no wheels, I thought that I probably should stop them. They were perfectly safe, yet something about the activity smacked of naughtiness. But they sure did love it, and I enjoyed watching it. So I didn’t stop them. I know they expected me to stop them, which made it more delightful for everyone when I allowed them to carry on.

The point is that I can’t control everything and everyone. Crazy things happen. There is disorder. But would we have it any other way?

This Thanksgiving I am grateful to God for the entire picture of my life. I’m glad it is a roller coaster. I’m even gladder that I know who is operating the thing, and that he won’t allow my car to fly off the track!

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