I’ve always loved rollers coaters. Thank goodness getting stuck on a loopdy-loop coaster as a child didn’t deter my desire to ride again. But, it was as an adult where I began to see roller coasters as spiritual teachers. Stay with me here and you’ll see why.
Roller coasters are like life – there are ups and downs, twists and turns, ins and outs. They require surrender to be enjoyed! So, here’s my coaster (surrender) story…
It was Sunday morning and my family (along with my sister and her two girls) was packed in the car ready for a day at Hershey Park. The excitement was high especially because my daughter and younger niece were finally tall enough to go on ALL of the roller coasters.
So it was going to be a very different day at Hershey; unlike the days of the past where we’d be in line for the choo-choo train and kiddie coaster.
The first big coaster we hit was the Great Bear! You can see a photo of it here. You’re suspended from the top track with your feet dangling in the air as you twist, turn, flip and loop your way on a coaster that roars like a bear as it zips along. I had been on this coaster before and loved it as much this week as I did when I first went on it.
It was an extra joy to hear my daughter and nieces (who’d never ridden it before) say they loved it and wanted to go again. We played a game to prepare them for the coaster. I asked, “What’s the most important thing to remember?” They’d respond, “Buckle in and keep your head back.” I asked, “What’s the next most important thing to remember?” They’d respond, “Breathe and Relax.” I asked, “What’s the next important thing to remember?” They’d respond, “Laugh and scream like crazy!” And so they did.
After Great Bear, we went on Stormrunner which shot you out using jet propulsion so you went from zero to seventy miles per hour in 2 seconds flat! Again, it was one I’d been on before and loved. And so did the girls after their first time around.
On and on we went, but one coaster kept eluding us… Fahrenheit. I’ve seen this coaster for years, but the “vertical lift inverted loop coaster” which ascends 121 feet before plummeting down a 97-degree drop didn’t seem to be in the cards this day. The line was way too long, the hairpin loop a hundred feet in the air looked quite intimidating, and I was totally OK with not going on it.
Then, about 15 minutes before the park closed we stopped by Fahrenheit – after I had pretty much assured myself I was too exhausted to go on it. This time the line was much shorter, the awe of the hairpin loop against the starry sky now lured me in.
As tired as I was at 10:00 PM, I put forth the effort to stand in line with my sister and one of my nieces and wait as our turn finally approached.
Finally, there I am, ascending the 121-foot vertical lift, lying in my seat harness totally perpendicular to the ground and I can see nothing but the vast night sky above me. I did what I told the girls to do – I kept my head back, I took a deep breath and relaxed and then I giggled like crazy! And I couldn’t stop laughing.
For the full length of the ride, I was cracking up… a side-splitting laugh that I couldn’t stop if I tried. With every corkscrew, loop, and descent my giggling increased. I had totally and completely let go and I allowed the coaster to take me on a phenomenal ride.
All along I was thinking of how indicative the coaster was of life… that when you let go and allow yourself to surrender to the flow, you end up having much more fun! That when you ride the ups and downs without resistance, you come out feeling better. That no matter how turned around you get, as long as you continue to let yourself be guided, you will always end up safe back home. You’ll find yourself exactly where you’re meant to be… and better for having taken the journey.
To me, this is what surrender looks like. It is trusting that something greater than you knows exactly where you’re meant to be and how you’re meant to get there. It’s allowing yourself to let go of your own will and let the ride (the flow) carry you. It’s facing the ups and downs with equal enthusiasm because they are both needed for you to arrive at your divine destination. It’s about embracing the journey with all your heart, rather than only being focused on the “end.” It’s about laughing as you look ahead and have no idea where you’re going. It’s about being fully awake, fully alive and fully aware of this moment… right now.
So, whether you are riding coasters at the amusement park – or the ups and downs of your life – I hope you are abundantly blessed with the gift of surrender. And… may this ride be the best ride you could ever wish for.