Archives, Biography, Orlando, Pondering

Riding a Rollercoaster on a Wave

Sometimes life needs more than one metaphor. My sister, Pam, and I constructed “riding a rollercoast on a wave” in one of those seasons where neither metaphor was sufficient in itself. Growing up playing on the sand of Lake Michigan and sitting on the rocks above Lake Superior, I love waves.

I hate rollercoasters. I dislike the feeling of dizziness and lack of control that comes from being hurled through space with only a bar (and maybe a strap) pressing me to something firm. I strongly dislike the threat of meeting an unknown expanse that is generally inhospitable to human bodies flung through space at frightening speeds and turns, heights and depths. But there are moments where “rollercoasters on waves” best capture the sense of living life when much of our external world lies outside any personal control at all.

I’m in one of these seasons. Living half-way between Chicago and Florida, living in the midst of family challenges and the moment-by-moment need for adjustments in my own soul as external factors that profoundly impact my life wash over me…right in the middle of another hairpin turn. And so I am struggling to live in a truth I regularly pass on to others. “God will give you the grace for today, today. Tomorrow’s store of grace will be awaiting you tomorrow.”

What is this grace that meets us in each moment, whether we are free-falling from the sky or struggling for air having caught the impact of the next wave? An abstract theological construct isn’t particularly helpful at such times. The presence of a person does. And this is one fundamental way to understand God’s grace: as the presence of the strengthening, guiding, comforting Holy Spirit. New each moment. Sufficient for the day. Really. And how do we access this presence of God’s Spirit in the moments when our lives seem upside down? (or even backwards—a friend once coaxed me onto a rollercoaster ride where the back of my head met every aspect of the adventure first. I was definitely not amused.)

Help! works very well in these moment. “Lord, I am drowning, I am spinning, I can’t find firm earth anywhere I step. May your good Spirit lead me on level ground. May your Spirit of wisdom guide me into the truth I need for today. May the comfort of your Holy Spirit wrap me all around for I am lonely and afflicted.”

I am remembering all over again that, when the world is spinning, the hardest struggle is gaining enough equilibrium to cry out for help. But he loves to come, this infinitely creative Spirit of God. And, in looking back, I remember that he gives what is needed, whether I need the strength to resist temptation, the wisdom and courage to stand for what is true, or the comfort of God’s presence (even if I don’t feel him…there is knowledge deeper than feelings, that is higher than the terror at the beginning of free-falls.)

I recently finished leading a retreat with my dear friend, Linda Borecki. Linda pointed us back into this lovely prayer of the Apostle Paul that causes me to suspect he, too, knew something of the experience of riding a rollercoaster on a wave: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”(Ephesians 3:14-19)

The Apostle Paul uses multiple metaphors, too. Only his metaphors of the Spirit indwelling us as a home, rooted like a tree, built like a tall, solid building and filled with the love of Jesus like an expansive container. Makes our little rollercoaster on a wave sound rather constrained, don’t you think?

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