“AMUSEMENT PARK THEOLOGY”
July 20, 2007
We had been standing in line for nearly two hours, slowly baking under the oppressive, Southern California sun. Our family vacation to Disneyland was not getting off to a good start. Thinking we could outsmart the less experienced tourists and get a head start near the front of the notoriously long lines of humanity waiting to enjoy the more popular attractions, we had rushed toward the best ride the instant the park was opened. Unfortunately, several thousand other tourists had the same idea. By the time we arrived at the entrance to “Space Mountain” the line was already backed up through a good portion of “Tomorrowland.” There was nothing to do but wait patiently while we inched our way forward toward the goal of our quest…a high speed, turbulent, roller coaster ride through space.
We had all been looking forward to this particular ride for weeks ever since we began to plan our vacation. Now we would have to endure even more waiting. Once we got inside the building that housed the roller coaster our spirits soared in heightened anticipation as the front of the line slowly drew ever closer. In the distance we could hear the screams of delighted space travelers experiencing what we could only imagine.
Finally, with hearts bursting from excitement, we climbed into our spaceship achieving the good fortune of being placed in the best position, the front seat of course, where the thrills are the most intense. The safety bar was locked in place low across our laps and we reached for a firm handhold hanging on for dear life as our ship was launched into space. Picking up immense speed we began twisting and turning and falling through a course made out to resemble a ride through an icy asteroid. Since we were whirling through near darkness it was difficult to know in advance which direction the track would take us next. Often we would brace ourselves for going one direction only to be surprised by turning the opposite way. I found myself praying that I would remain in the spaceship and that it would remain on the track. Up and down, side to side, around and around we flew at breakneck speed, faster and faster until we passed through a spiraling tunnel of light, the brakes were applied, and the ride came to a screeching halt.
“Step this way, please,” beckoned a young woman dressed in a space uniform.
Looking at my watch I realized the ride had lasted barely a minute. After weeks of planning and hours of standing in line the great adventure was already finished. “What a rip-off!” I shouted. “I can’t believe it’s over so soon. Let’s stay put and go around again.”
“I’m sorry,” said the attendant politely but firmly. “Others are waiting to take your place. Step this way, please.”
As young children inching our way through elementary school, the intolerable wait for adulthood to arrive seems to take forever. When will the real adventure finally begin? The years crawl by at a snail’s pace while we eagerly make plans for a future life that seems an eternity away. At last we find ourselves in high school where our spirits soar in heightened anticipation as graduation draws ever closer. With wide-eyed wonder we listen to the testimonials of older friends who have made it to the “great ride” and are experiencing what we can only imagine.
Finally, with hearts bursting from excitement, we don cap and gown, climb to the stage to receive our diploma, and launch ourselves into adulthood. The pace of life suddenly, dramatically lurches forward and we reach for a handhold, grasping for anything to hang onto to keep from flying off the ride. Faster and faster we go, twisting and turning and careening through a maze of life experiences. Odd jobs…different relationships…a new career…marriage…a baby arrives…another child…we buy a house…we get laid off from work. Just when we brace ourselves to go in one direction the ride turns the opposite way. We take the kids to their first day of school…to the dentist…to the emergency room for the “umpteenth” time…then to their own high school graduation. We wonder how this ride can possibly go any faster…but it does! College expenses…weddings…empty nest…the market goes up…the market goes down…retirement…major illness…spiraling tunnel of light…SCREECH!
“Step this way, please,” beckons a young man dressed in white.
It suddenly dawns on us that after years of waiting and planning for life, the great adventure which just seemed to start yesterday has already come to an end. “What a rip-off!” we shout. “How can it be over so soon? Let’s stay put and go around again.”
“I’m sorry,” says the attendant politely but firmly. “Others are waiting to take your place. Step this way please.”
For those of you who find yourselves dizzying over the incredible speed of life and astonished at the terrifying approach of the end of the ride, allow me to share the following amusement park theology gleaned from the roller coaster of life:
1. Life is frightening; dare to climb aboard. And while you’re at it, choose the front seat where the adventure is more intense. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. – He. 11:1. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Phil. 4:13.
2. Life is uncertain; make sure your handhold is secure. The lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. – Ps. 18:2. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. – He. 6:19.
3. Life is confusing; make sure you’re on the right track. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – Jn. 14:6.
4. Life is short; make the most of it. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Ps. 90:12.
5. Life is really short; take time to enjoy the ride. …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – Jn. 10:10.
And here’s the best truth of all. When you are traveling on a spaceship called “Jesus Christ,” just when you think the ride is coming to an end, it’s only barely beginning. Welcome to “Tomorrowland!”
Bill, a child of God enjoying the adventure