Friday, July 29, 2011


Every year since 2009, my brother and I have made a point of getting to Sixflags to see Skillet play (they have played there just about every year for a very long while). It is always one of my favorite shows in any given year.

This year we set off early enough to spend a full day riding coasters in the park, as well as picking up my friend Joelle. Though the day was the kind of heavy, sticky hot that makes the air feel dirty, it took me maybe 15 minutes to remember how much I enjoy roller coasters and to realize how much I had needed the time with friends.

There is a ride in the park that has been one of my favorites since they built it. This is primarily because most of the ride consists of free fall, which I am a big fan of. Of course there is always the sick twist of fear at the beginning, the feeling that you left part of yourself somewhere above as you plummet towards earth. But after that first split second, it feels like flying.

I tend to be very thoughtful on roller coasters and similar rides. This probably seems like it wouldn’t be the best place to play the philosopher, but I have found that the least conventional places are usually where the best thoughts are born. In this case, as we were free falling, I was thinking hard, and holding one of those quiet dialogues with God that often happens in moments like this.

You see, I realized sometime last year that the reason I love roller coasters so much is partly because I have no control over them. I have had friends tell me that this is why they are scared of roller coasters. There is a set track, and the car moves along it, but you can’t always see that far ahead and you certainly can’t stop the car once it gets started. If a free fall proves too terrifying halfway in, there is no going back. And for some this is terrifying. For me, it is what makes it exhilarating. It is one of the very few situations in my life where I feel like I am allowed to relinquish control, to know I cannot change anything and no one expects me to. I am strapped in place and set moving far too fast to stop.

I used to close my eyes when I rode rollercoasters. I couldn’t stand watching what was inevitably coming. I was fine with putting myself in that position, so long as I didn’t have to handle any more than what I felt at that exact moment.

It’s probably pretty obvious where I am going with this. If I am honest, I am probably the biggest control freak I have ever known. I don’t know if this partly comes in reaction to the fact that I have had extremely little choice over the direction of my life, particularly in the past few years, but the reality is that I struggle with it a lot. I want to be able to lay out everything perfectly, write a list and check the items off. I want dates set in stone and I want a system in place that I know how to operate. When situations prove themselves to be out of my control entirely, I get discouraged and disheartened. I often give up.

I have found that when I surrender my false sense of entitlement to control situation, that is most often when I can actually find peace. When I recognize that I can’t be the perfect friend to everyone, but I can certainly act in love wherever I am placed. When I recognize that I can’t plan out my life perfectly, but I can definitely take one step at a time as God directs it. When I recognize that I don’t even have enough control over my life to save myself... but He knows that, and that’s why He offers grace.

After the free fall we got off the ride. I was incredibly lucky in that Joelle enjoys that sort of thing as much as I do, so we looped around to do it again. I was still thinking. I realized how much joy there is in surrendering control. I realized that there is often that sick feeling at the beginning, the feeling when gravity falls out. And then it feels like flying. As I have said before, it is like falling up.

That night we met up with another friend to watch Skillet play. I tend to follow very specific formulas at shows, but this one broke a lot of my usual habits. I ended up leaving my assigned seat so I could spend the show with friends, which was more important to me than following some idea I had previously carried in my head.

The songs that night were a reminder, these tunes I have heard more than any others, played by a band that has shaped my life for so many years. That night they reminded me that even when I have no control, even in those sick moments of fear at the beginning when the world seems to fall apart, there are truths to hold onto. There are some things that never change. There are still things that are bigger than my life and the plans I lay down.

And though there have been so many times when I’ve closed my eyes tight, afraid to see where God would pull me if I really let go, between the rollercoasters and a rock show I was reminded that I long now to let go with wide-open eyes and an eager heartbeat. It is there beyond the desire for control and in the heart of surrender that I find joy.

- Elraen -

"Peace [is] the absence of fear and striving in the place of utter vulnerability. Absolute trust."

- Korey Cooper


Becca Johnson said...

Beautiful blog post and some very good thoughts. :D Thank you for sharing them. Another awesome thing I remind myself about giving up control is that God can direct my life in awesome ways that I couldn't even begin to imagine.

Eclectic Elegance said...

Wow. I needed to hear this. :)