I recently had the gift of a trip to Disneyland with family and friends.
I think the popcorn-smelling-gases they pump into the air negatively affected the decision-making part of our brains because we all thought it would be a good idea to start with Space Mountain. With our little kids. Or maybe the sentimentality of our own childhoods overpowered our ability to think clearly as a parent.
Regardless, off we went.
I ended up in the front row with my five-year-old daughter. Now, my sweet girl is fearless, so perhaps in my muddled thinking that’s why I thought we could “sacrificially” take the front row.
We climbed in and I explained to her what to expect. We’d go up. There’d be loud music. And then we’d be flying through space. But don’t be afraid; I’m here and it’s fun.
Well, we went up.
The music was loud.
And it was terrifying.
Way more terrifying than I remembered. Darker. Faster. More jolting. I don’t remember if she was crying or screaming or in a panicked silence… I only remember the fight-or-flight awakening of my brain and the acute awareness that I’d just brought my baby onto this ride of terror.
I pulled her in as close to my side as possible. We went up, down, sideways. We couldn’t see a thing except stars that looked on a collision-path with us.
“Just hold on, sweetie, hold on,” I whispered, as I made her body one with mine. So that with every turn, every jolt, every drop, her body moved with mine… and not its own whip-lashed free-flying that I imagined hers would’ve done without me.
I spent the entire ride praying safety and security and peace into her ear and heart.
“Hold on baby girl, I’m here with you.”
A billion-feeling light years later, the ride ended.
She looked up at me and said, “Can we never ride that ride again?” Oh, my brave girl.
I apologized over and over for taking her on the ride without going on it first myself. I told her that I didn’t remember it being so fast and dark. I later learned that’s because it wasn’t. The ride had only re-opened a few weeks earlier: faster and darker.
My daughter blew me away with her self-awareness.
“Mommy, even if you went first and told me it was too scary, I would still want to go on it. I would have to see for myself if it really was too scary.”
And if my life is like Disneyland (ha!) then God has just taken me on Space Mountain.
He took me on a ride I wasn’t ready for. Wasn’t expecting.
As the ride climbed up, my heart panicked. “Letmeoff, letmeoff, letmeoff!” It was too late.
I imagine He whispered into my ear some of what to expect… but the rest just had to be experienced. And as the ride burst out into a fast-paced careening through an unpredictable outer space, He pulled me in.
Whispered peace and comfort and security into my ear and heart.
Held me so close that my body moved with His through the turbulence. Through the climbs, the drops, the sudden twists to the side, our movements were one.
“Just hold on, baby girl, hold on.”
Oh, I’m holding on. There’s no feeling in my hands, they are so numb with the holding on. With the leaning into His side so I don’t have to feel the tug to fly out of the coaster.
And when I feel brave… I peek. And what I see in those flashes of brave peeking, well, I think it’s beautiful. It’s the universe. And He knows the name of every star. Placed it right where it is. And I can feel the wind massaging my cheeks, my hair, and it almost feels good. Then we drop again, climb again, twist again. And a billion-feeling light years later, it’s over.
Daddy, can we please never ride that one again?
Well, the ride part is over. Will be over.
And I’m changed.
I’m hyper aware of my mortality. My husband’s mortality. The mortality of my children.
And I’m not as brave as my daughter. I didn’t need to experience this ride to know it was too painful. I believed the others who’ve ridden it and that was enough. Or so I thought.
I’m grieving that life is so short, so hard. Grieving that I don’t know when this ride ends and that I can’t see the track. Grieving that I don’t know when my last day is… or their last day or your last day. And that I just have to love so incredibly deeply, cherish immensely, hold tightly while it’s here to be loved, cherished, and held.
And I’m terrified.
“Hold on sweetie, I’ve got you.”
And He does.
And it’s going to be okay.
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.