I’ve never been one for carnival rides, especially the roller coasters. They look, smell, and even feel like fear to me, and as I watch them go up, down and around the tracks that keep the cars in motion, I still can’t help but cringe.

I remember the excitement of watching the caravan of Davis Amusement trucks arriving in our small, Central Oregon town growing up, but when I actually found myself in line for a ride at the Jefferson County Fair, the excitement was far from present. “The Scrambler” was about as daring as I got. It didn’t spin, would ease its way to a somewhat fast speed, and every fourth turn or so I could easily see my parents watching in amazement that I had actually gotten on a ride.

One year I did venture out and ride the “Octopus” two times in a row, but I also remember sitting on a bench for 15 minutes afterwards, trying to regain my balance and keep my cotton candy in my stomach where it belonged. Watching others experience the thrill — or scare — of the variation of rides that covered the grass on the edge of our county fairgrounds was definitely more up my alley. Observing my friends, smiling and waving at them as they sailed and spun, and even flipped upside down above me, somehow gave me the feeling that I was safer and more secure on solid, level ground than they ever were going to be putting their trust in a ride.

Yes, watching from a safe distance was my way of enjoying the carnival for most of my life.

As I grow older, I’m not sure if I was any safer or secure on solid ground observing from a distance. If anything, the people I was watching were learning a whole lot more about the ups and downs of life firsthand than I ever was just standing there trying to be safe. Life and roller coasters seem to go hand in hand. One minute things are looking up and going full-steam ahead, and then before you can turn around, your stomach feels like it has hit the bottom of a deep, deep lake, and you can’t seem to catch your breath, let alone know which way is up.

We’re meant to live fully. And fully living means being brave enough to step out of the observation deck, buy yourself a ticket — or four — for all of those rides that life brings and hang on. You may not know what to expect and your heart might feel like it’s going to pump right out of your body, but before you know it, the ride has started and all you can do is hold on. Hold on, and trust that the track you’re on is going to lead you right where you belong. And when your feet hit the ground and you look back at the ride — know that the ups and downs and everything in between was just one little piece of this adventure you call life.

One little piece of life that may, or may not, have not been the best experience you’ve ever had, but a ride that gave you another opportunity to trust in a God that knows right where your tracks will lead, and a God that promises to ride each and every roller coaster with you.

———

Lindsay Murdock lives and teaches in Echo.

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