For as long as I remember, I’ve loved roller coasters. In fact, I love pretty much all those kind of rides—even The Scrambler, which I rode once while on a date, feeling helpless as my body slammed into the poor girl every five seconds. One of the best moments in life is that last click-click-click of the initial ascent, right before the exhilarating plunge. Six Flags, Cedar Point, Magic Mountain—bring ‘em on! And that one in Vegas on the top of a skyscraper: it’s on my bucket list.
In my mind, there’s only two things that should stop you from the thrill of a roller coaster ride. The first is size restriction: the dreaded sign: “You Must Be This Tall to Ride this Ride.” Ah, the heartbreak of bring vertically challenged. At Disneyland I saw first-hand the abject sorrow (complete with weeping and wailing) when this young tyke ahead of me, who had waited almost an hour in line, discovered he fell short of Mickey’s gloved hand. Tiptoes not allowed. The second is cost: how much are you willing to pay for a few minutes—or even seconds—of excitement? There was this “ride” at Waterfront Park during the Rose Festival, where people were strapped into a harness, and suddenly shot a couple hundred feet in the air before plummeting back to earth, only to be slowed down just before they’d hit. It looked great. But it cost $50. Multiply that by the three of us there at the time, it’d be $7 a second. I decided to be content just watching other people get launched.
The kingdom of God is like a roller coaster ride (or whatever that other thing was called). The same reasons that keep you off great rides you might think keep you from following Jesus. Don’t let them stop you. You can forget about the first one. Feel you don’t measure up, that you fall short of expectations? Don’t. In fact, Jesus says you must be a little child if you are to enter the kingdom. It is something we all have to grow into. After all, we’re called to be disciples, the root of that is discipline, and discipline comes only with time and practice.
The cost, however, is a different story. Following Jesus will demand a lot out of you. He makes that rather clear: “Take up a cross and follow me.” / “Be servant to all.” / “Lose your life, if you want to gain it.” The price is steep, but so was the price He paid to make this invitation—dying on a cross to “open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”
May you say, “Yes!” to the roller coaster of following Jesus, and enjoy the ride—even when (especially when) it’s perilous. My most memorable roller coaster experience was when we lived in Germany. There was this Batman ride I told the family we had to stop and take. We got into this little basket and locked into place behind a metal rail. Then were hoisted and whirled and shaken all about. Patty said it was like being in a car accident. For me, however, the truly terrifying part was this four-inch bolt that fell into my lap shortly after the ride started. I could only pray that it wasn’t securing something that would keep us from being flung into the parking lot. I lived to tell the story. We made it, safe and sound.
After my death, in His kingdom, I hope to be doing the same thing.