“OVER THE FALLS”
March 28, 2008
“No, dad,” pleaded our insistent, pre-teen children, Trisha and Travis. “Don’t make us go on that ride. It’s too scary!”
Our family had been at Disneyland all day and had taken in just about every available adventure. The only major ride we had yet to experience was “Splash Mountain,” a relatively calm, easy-going log ride through a series of re-created scenes from Disney animated movies. I say “relatively calm” because about two-thirds of the way through the ride the log boats take you over a waterfall in a thrilling, sixty foot drop that leaves you breathless in sheer panic and totally drenched in cool water.
For my wife, Babs, and me, veterans of many journeys on this ride, the falls was a highly desired, long anticipated, adrenalin rush without which no visit to the Magic Kingdom would be complete. However, convincing our children of this was proving to be a challenge, especially since screams of terror emitting from the ride could be heard all over the park. I did my best to focus their attention on the joys of the ride both before and after the waterfall while attempting to downplay the small part that might be a little unnerving.
“The scary part only lasts for five seconds,” I explained. “You can close your eyes while that happens. The rest of it is slow and gentle with some really great things to see. Mom and I will be riding with you all the way. Please come with us on the ride; we can’t leave you alone and we really want to go on “Splash Mountain before we go home!”
Unfortunately, my powers of persuasion were not up to the challenge. This predicament called for a more drastic strategy.
“After the ride we’ll all go have some ice cream,” I announced, not at all ashamed of having to resort to bribery.
Finally, with the promise of ice cream and their choice of one Disney souvenir each, we talked them into getting in line with us for “Splash Mountain.” During the hour-long wait in line, with the screams of frightened log riders growing ever louder as we inched closer to the start of the ride, we continually had to reinforce their fleeting courage in order to keep them from running away. At last we climbed into our log boat with me sitting in front (sacrificing my body to protect my family), Babs taking up the rear, and Trisha and Travis sandwiched in between. “Great,” I thought to myself. “Nothing can stop us now.”
Throughout the first part of the ride I frequently looked back to see how the kids were doing. Just about every time I checked they had their eyes closed.
“You’re missing all the neat stuff to see!” I shouted above the joyful music which accompanied us throughout most of the ride. “I’ll let you know when it’s time to close your eyes.”
Although I was unaware of it at the time, their eyes were not just closed in fear. They were praying.
“Please God,” they both silently begged, “make this ride break down. Don’t let our boat go over the falls!”
Eventually the happy Disney tune changed to a minor key and the music became mournful and foreboding. Up ahead was a long, steep incline that would carry our log boat up to the top of the waterfall. I turned around to let the kids know it was time to cover their eyes only to discover their eyelids were already tightly shut.
“Please, God,” they continued to pray in silent desperation, “make the ride break down right here. Don’t let our boat go over the falls!”
Just as our log boat hooked onto the chain drive which began pulling us up the hill to the top of the falls (That’s right, you guessed it!) we jerked to a sudden stop. After a few frustrating minutes wondering what was happening, the music ceased and a voice came over the loudspeakers.
“We are sorry but the ride has malfunctioned. Our attendants are coming to assist you. Please follow their directions and carefully climb out of the boats making your way to the nearest exit.”
Babs and I were devastated. We couldn’t believe our rotten luck. Our kids, on the other hand, were ecstatic.
“There is a God!” they squealed in delight. “God is real! He cares about us! He answered our prayers!”
Whether the malfunction was caused by God or merely coincidence (Someone once said coincidences are God’s anonymous miracles.) it certainly was a boost to our children’s faith. It was also a cause for even more celebration on their part as Babs and I reluctantly had to be true to our agreement and treat them to ice cream.
Now that our children are older they would jump at the chance to accompany us on “Splash Mountain.” Maturity has a way of mitigating amusement park fears, just as spiritual maturity helps lessen our anxiety over the crises we face in this life. Experienced Disneyland adventurers know the waterfall on “Splash Mountain” is exhilarating, almost always survivable, and leads to more fun on the rest of the ride. For a mature Christian, experiencing a calamity with Christ in the front of the boat is exhilarating, not only survivable but spiritually strengthening, and even if the worst does happen there is always more to look forward to, a reward that even beats ice cream. Going over the falls doesn’t mean the ride is finished.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this as they faced the fiery furnace. “…the God we serve is able to save us…but even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods…” – Daniel 3:17-18. Job knew this when he faced the sudden reversal of all his past blessings. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him…” – Job 13:15. Paul learned this as he faced his “thorn in the flesh.” “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you…'” – 1Corinthians 12:8-9.
The spiritually mature know that regardless of our circumstances there is a God, He is real, He cares about us, and He answers all our prayers even though we may not like the answers He gives. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. We have learned to trust Him whether the promotion is given to us or someone else, whether the check arrives on time or too late, whether the test results are benign or malignant, whether calamity is averted at the last moment or hits us head on. Our faith in God will not falter, our trust in Him will not waiver, our love for Him will not be washed away, even when He allows our boat to go over the falls. Whether the ride breaks down at the last moment or we are propelled into disaster, all will be well. We can relax and enjoy the adventure; our Father is riding with us in the boat!
Bill, a child of God enjoying the ride