...in fact, I don't think I've ever been on one. The one trip I can remember to an amusement part as I child, I got on one of the rides with my Aunt Sherril. And no sooner had it started, than I began to scream bloody murder. I don't know if its something about the out of control sensation, perhaps my fear of heights - I'm not sure what it is. The closest thing I've ever experienced to a roller coaster is those "virtual coasters" you can ride - where you get in, and they play a movie all around you and move the seats you're in to match the movie. But even in those, when it "gets too much" you can close your eyes...and the sensations diminish.
I have many friends who LOVE roller coasters. And they describe the sensation as one of intense fear and excitement at the same time. I always thought that was bunk - there's no WAY to feel both fear and excitement in the same measure at once, I thought. It must not really be fear they were feeling. And...even if it WERE possible to feels those sensations at once - there's no WAY that could be an enjoyable thing. I mean, if you did it once - and that's the way you felt - there'd be no WAY you'd want to do that again. Certainly not spending loads of money and waiting in line just to be terrified again...no matter how exciting it was for you.
Well...I still don't like roller coasters - don't know that I'll ever get on one. But I gotta' tell ya' - in these last few weeks I've come to believe what it is others tell me they like about them. Fear & excitement all at the same time...and experiencing that in a context of enjoyment. That's very much the emotions that are prevailing all day every day for me these last weeks.
When I first began to pack up the house - sort through those things I wanted to keep, and those things I couldn't take with me to school. As I began to go through the emotional and physical process of letting go...letting go of material possessions, letting go of my pet of 10 years - the most amazing cat I've ever known, letting go of the freedom and secuirty of my home, beginning to feel the letting go of financial security of having a good job... well, it all feels like riding a roller coaster. I'm terrified in many ways...and yet excited in many ways...all at the same time.
Letting go isn't easy. The physical and emotional effort that's involved is taxing, its hard. I'm not really sure I can explain how I've been able to do it. There have been many tasks - throwing away memoribilia that I can no longer find a way to keep, taking Smokey (my cat) to the Humane Society, loading up the car and hugging my grandmother for the last time as a neighbor. I'm not sure how I did these things. As I approached and moved through each of those events, all I could think was, "There's no way I can do this. It's not possible. I just don't have it in me to do this." And yet - somehow - some way - I did. (Talk about evidence of God's grace...I mean, I KNOW the strength to do these things did NOT come from within me.)
And yet - even through all of the fear and difficulty of those things - there is right along with it a growing excitement. No - I'm not excited about having to do and experience those things. Most of them make me very sad. But I AM excited about where this path is going. I AM excited about beginning this new phase of my life...embarking on this adventure. That's what it feels like - an adventure. I have no way of knowing for sure where it will lead. It's possible that a year away at seminary will lead away from the ordained priesthood instead of toward it. But - the ADVENTURE - well, it IS exciting.
So, I have a new found appreciation for those that like riding roller coasters. Don't get me wrong - I have no intention of getting on one any time soon. But, for perhaps the first time in my life, I have an appreciation for what that experience offers to so many. There is something OK - something even enjoyable perhaps - about being utterly terrified and excited at the same time. I don't know that I understand it completely. But my sense is that there's an "X-factor" in the mix somewhere that allows it to be enjoyable. I don't know about the roller coasters...but for me, I must accept that x-factor as God's love, presence, strength and friendship. I only hope all those around me, for whom this adventure of mine is creating change, and fear, and sadness, and loss...I only hope for them that the same sense of excitement, or at least peace and presence of God, finds its way to them through it all.