Learning From Roller Coasters

by | May 26, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Riding a roller coaster! One of the thrills for children is when their parents take them to a major amusement park.

The thrills and excitements…the ups and downs… the fears and uncertainty of a loss of control.

Of course, the ride is designed to be safe … but our hearts can be in our mouths.

Education as a roller coaster ride

Graduating from grammar school or high school and transitioning to college is certainly a roller coaster ride, complete with thrilling highs, challenging lows, and unexpected twists and turns.

A roller coaster ride begins anew with the anticipation and excitement of graduating from grammar school or high school. It’s the final climb up the first hill, the feeling of accomplishment, the joy of finishing a significant chapter in your life. You’re at the top of the world, surrounded by your classmates, celebrating your achievements.

The cycle repeats

Suddenly, you’re plunging into a valley. The excitement of graduation gives way to the apprehension of what’s next. You’re leaving behind the familiar – friends, teachers, routines – and stepping into the unknown. It’s the fear of the descent, the stomach-churning drop that comes with change.

Then comes the climb again – starting college. It’s a steep ascent, filled with the thrill of new opportunities and the anxiety of new challenges. You’re meeting new people, learning new things, exploring new places. It’s a nerve-racking and exciting climb, the rush of adrenaline that comes with a new adventure.

There are new plunges now – moments of homesickness, stress, self-doubt. These are the steep descents, sharp drops that test your resilience. But remember, every descent is followed by an ascent. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

Finally, you reach the end of the rollercoaster ride – the end of your first year in college. You’re not the same person who started the ride. You’ve grown, you’ve learned, you’ve changed. You’ve experienced the highs and lows, the twists and turns, and you’ve come out stronger.

The roller coaster of following Christ

I have often thought of the roller coaster ride of the followers of Jesus.

Holy Week is a condensed version of their roller coaster experience of discipleship. From the proclamation of the kingdom to committing themselves to follow Jesus. The high of Palm Sunday, the rapid descent into confusion of Good Friday, and the shock of the Resurrection.

Struggling to believe the unbelievable, wanting Jesus to stay with them, the descent into confusion again after the Ascension. Wondering what was next. Amazed by the gift of Jesus’ spirit.

We have Luke to thank for helping us to understand they experienced ups and down they never expected after the Resurrection.

My personal roller coaster of discipleship

This year more than ever I have begun to realize that their experience is also my experience.

At first, when I accepted that call, I thought I knew what it involved. I was excited by the call to follow Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor. Now I can look back at over seven decades since then and recognize that it has been quite a ride.

At first, I thought I knew what it meant.  Yet after ten years of study and over 50 years as a priest, I am still faced with the repeating pattern of steep climbs and breakthroughs to a deeper understanding of what that commitment has meant.

We just celebrated Mother’s Day. I wonder if there is any mother who does not now understand much better the experience of being a mother from the time she first learned she was pregnant.

What have you learned from the peaks and valleys of the roller coaster of your faith journey?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk