Let’s Get Off the Roller Coaster

I loved roller coasters when I was growing up. I loved the clink-clink-clink of the cart as it slowly made its way up the highest hill of the ride. The anticipation of the fall was almost as good as the actual fall. And then the cart would get to the top and drop, full speed, to the lowest low of the ride. I would scream with both delight and terror and get back in line to ride it again.

I don’t like roller coasters anymore. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. If my sponsor was reading this she would surely be rolling her eyes because she knows that I know how much I try to be in control of life when it’s simply not a reality for anyone. I can control my actions and reactions and nothing else. I still try though.

The hubs and I were listening to a Stephen King novel in the car a few days ago and the story was set in 2020. It was clearly written well before 2020 because the story told was in no way as terrifying as the real 2020. I saw a meme a while back that said something about 2020 being written by Stephen King and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. I have never felt a meme to be more accurate. I turned to the hubs and commented on the fact that the story we were listening to was far more believable that our actual lives right now.

The roller coaster of emotions, the ups and downs of fear, and the speed of how fast news changes. We were heartbroken at fires in Australia and then terrified of a virus with no cure and then enraged at social injustices. Add in a presidential campaign and we have a year of madness that is only half over.

My daughter and I were talking last week about how many people in her social media feed were angrily announcing to their world of followers that if “you” aren’t posting about racial equality or social injustice then “you” are uncaring and would swiftly be unfollowed. As if one Instagram post or Snapchat story could possibly sum up the totality of anyone’s heart.

I have felt so discouraged in the last few weeks. The hard lines drawn by all sides of every issue are so alienating. We are told you either agree or you are wrong. We have to be totally informed, totally involved, and totally wrapped up by every issue surrounding us. And were this not the kind of unprecedented year we are having, that might be an easier demand. But in a year that has clearly gone off the rails and so many people are hurt by so many issues, there is way too much hurt for any one person to carry.

This makes me wonder about our purpose as followers of Christ. I’m starting to believe that when Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world to share his love, he didn’t mean all the world at one time. He specifically instructed them to go to one place, then the next, then the next, dusting off their sandals when their love was not accepted or understood.

Twenty-four-hour news coverage lets us know about the heartache around the world at any given minute. We can know about fires in Australia and earthquakes in India in the same newscast. We can read about the unemployment rate in America and the starving children in Africa in the same article. And news produced this morning is old and out of date this afternoon.

Social media allows anyone and everyone to share their beliefs and with that, they can try to get you onboard or shame you for not jumping on fast enough. It just seems that maybe God didn’t design our hearts to know all the things at all times. We weren’t designed to process and handle the heartache of the entire world when we have not yet completed the work of processing our own.

It’s so easy for us to read all the news and form opinions and jump into fear-based action or to react with anger. We are told our “likes” matter and show we are in total alinement. We are encouraged to “share” in order to inform and make a difference. But I’m just not sure that typing some words on a screen and sending them into the universe is true compassion as God intended (Says the woman typing a blog post).

It feels like the energy spent online reading charts and graphs, listening to the news, and scrolling feeds can drain us of the compassion we need to be sharing with people face to face. And maybe because the government has forbidden us from being face to face for so long we have come to a false belief that online interaction would be a suitable replacement. It’s not.

There was a time told in the Bible when the people tried to build a tower that would reach heaven. They wanted to be as great as God himself. So God mixed their words and languages to make it nearly impossible for anyone to communicate efficiently with each other. Their tower plan failed. These days we are in feel sort of like that. Have we become so full of ourselves, thinking we have access to the best and latest information, that we know better than God? I don’t think any of us would be so bold to say those words out loud but it feels like we just might believe we are capable of some level of omniscience; that the technology we possess allows us to know all. And when we believe we know the most about any given topic, we tend to live as if we are better than those who know less than us. And when we believe we are better and know more, we listen to other ideas, other points of view, other hearts much less. It’s a total breakdown of compassion and empathy.

I have found myself on both sides of the breakdown lately, so trust me when I say I write this without the purpose of finger-wagging. I write it more as a confession. I also write it as a plea for everyone to take a deep breath, put their phones down, take a walk, go for a swim, pick some flowers, or have lunch with a friend. Hug someone. Hold someone’s hand. But most importantly, get off the roller coaster. It only runs when we stand in line, get in the cart, and strap ourselves in. If there are no riders, no one runs the ride.

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