Posted: 6/13/15 at 8:20am. Column by Ed Jordan.
At some point all of us discover that our lives are similar to roller coasters. We all have some pretty difficult climbs in reaching “the top” in some achievement, only to remain at the top for a few brief moments before the bottom drops out from under us. At that point we find ourselves shooting downwards, and seemingly out of control, at such a pace that it takes our breath away.
In our naivety we think that once we achieve something or get to the top, we can then just coast along in life from there. But in reality the peaks of a roller coaster ride are merely brief interludes before we accelerate towards the next section of our journey, which normally leads to more hills to climb, with more brief respites at the peak of the climbs, and then we find ourselves heading downward again.
This week I was reading Michael Ward’s “Of Hills and Dales” 2015 Commencement Address to the graduates of Hillsdale College. One part of his address was an admonition to the graduates to realize that while graduating from college is a high point in their lives, they must realize that after college comes the challenge of the ups and downs of life and careers.
He said that Winston Churchill called life’s ups and downs “a rolling English road,” while C.S. Lewis referred to them as “the law of undulation.” Both of these men, even in the midst of their fame, giftedness and contribution to the world, also had their times of dropping from the peaks of life into the deepest valleys of human experience. Life’s highs are often followed by times when the bottom drops out of our lives and we feel like we are in freefall with nothing to keep us from colliding with the ground.
Every famous sports person has experienced the highs of victory, but also doubt-filled pains from defeats. Every successful business person has also had times when the future of the business was in jeopardy. Even couples with a great marital relationship have had some not-so-great and unnerving times.
Many people have climbed the ladder of success only to discover that companies have short memories, and are more interested in what you are doing to make the company successful now, than in remembering what you have accomplished in their past.
All this to say, life is not static. The moment we reach a goal, or achieve a mountaintop experience, the roller coaster of life keeps moving and we are either heading upward towards new peaks, or downwards towards decline. What happens to people also happens to organizations. While we might be able to coast for a brief time on top a peak in order to catch our breath and prepare for the next phase, life does not level off for long.
For example, if we work really hard at diet and exercise, we might achieve our weight and strength goals. But once achieving that, we cannot just quit watching what we eat nor stop exercising. If we coast, after a few weeks, we begin to gain weight and lose muscle-tone again.
Hopefully you will have great moments to celebrate accomplishments. When you do, enjoy them, and savor every moment. Then brace yourself, and prepare for the next challenges in life. Like a roller coaster most of our experiences in life are comprised of struggling to reach the next peak, or hanging on for dear life in the descent until we begin the next segment of challenge to reach the next peak.
Of course, life is not just two dimensional with up and down movement. While we are accelerating downwards towards the beginning of a new challenge, we might suddenly find ourselves suddenly hurled to the left or right by a sudden jolting turn. On this roller coaster called life, there is never a dull moment, nor time for apathy.
As Christians, we realize that God’s call upon our lives is to be continually moving forward, and upward. The Apostle Paul expressed this in Philippians 3:14 (ESV): “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Today, whether you find yourself moving upward toward the next peak in life, or gliding while catching your breath and enjoying a recent achievement, or hanging onto God as the bottom drops out from under you, remember to continue to move together with God in the forward and upward directions.
Life is not like a drive across the flatlands of Texas, but rather like a roller coaster filled with varying speeds, inclines, declines, and jolting turns, with a few peaceful mountaintop respites included.
If you are moving with God on life’s roller coaster-like journey, you need not fear; God promises that you will arrive at your destination.