“I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster,” a patient recently told me. “I’ll be up and then down, up and down. It just never stops.”
No. No it doesn’t seem to.
This patient went on to tell me some of their story. Military service. Troubled family life. Cancer. More cancer.
It resounded with me, the thought of life being like a roller coaster. I think it is an apt metaphor. There are certainly ups and downs. But if you have ever been on a roller coaster, you know it is so much more than the ups and the downs. There are twists and turns you don’t see coming. There are fast parts and slow parts. Heck, there are sometimes even parts that go upside-down.
People react differently to roller coasters. I have liked them since I was little. Emma loves them. Sofia doesn’t, but she is easily motion sick, so I suppose she is excused.
Some people don’t like the slow parts. The anticipation literally mounts as the coaster climbs a hill. You know what is coming, and the slow ascent just prolongs the inevitable.
Some people don’t like the fast parts. Those usually happen as the coaster races down a hill or around a tight turn. They may not like the feeling of being out of control, going so fast that it is hard to tell what is coming next.
It’s like that with life, too, isn’t it? Some parts of life go so slowly. The cancer treatments. The depression. The family problems. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know it is coming, and you just cannot make it come any faster.
Some parts of life go by too quickly. Sometimes it’s the good that goes quickly: the early days and weeks with a new baby, a dream vacation, the honeymoon phase of a relationship. Other parts go quickly but badly: a bad situation gets worse faster than you think it will, an illness progresses rapidly and leaves you reeling.
One thing the hospital has reaffirmed for me is that we are not guaranteed time. Each person’s roller coaster lasts a length that only that person will fully experience. My roller coaster will last longer than some but shorter than others.
Perhaps the most famous Bible verses dealing with time come from Ecclesiastes 3:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance….”
The verses go on. It is an extensive list of the things we are given time for. That is the point, I suppose. We might not know how much time we are given, but Solomon tells us that God gave us time to do the many things that come with life. We will laugh and cry, mourn and dance, live and die. We will have ups and downs.
Just like a roller coaster.