LOCKED IN! (Who’s Really In Charge?) Cliff Redanz

Amusement parks are not on my list of favorite activities!  I decided to go that night mainly to be with other family members.  (Plus – one of our daughters had reduced-rate tickets from her employer!)

Among park rides, there are those I could NEVER go on!  I’m certainly not alone with such ‘hang-ups’.  No matter our age, gender, family background, education, etc., various situations lead us to think: “I’d die if I had to do that!”  Inventing “comfort zones” for ourselves is not the answer either!  We humans aren’t even aware of the thought patterns which course through our minds and make us ‘tick’ as individuals!

Years of God’s limitless patience with me have shown how I struggle over “control”.  Human nature goads me into taking charge – fearing other people won’t do things the “right way” (i.e., my way!).  I’ve even treated God like that – attempting to wrestle control away from Him through personal, selfish choices.

Let me share my ‘take-away’ lessons from the amusement park.

Each ride had a unique warning sign – depending on its “thrill level”.  As a six-foot tall male, I DID exceed the minimum height requirements and was certainly NOT pregnant!  Other listed restrictions offered me better excuses to stay on terra firma.  After all, I do have back problems (occasionally!).  And, given stress levels on the job, I’ve wondered about the condition of my heart.  Having quickly ‘convinced’ myself against riding, those flimsy reasons abruptly popped like a fragile soap bubble!  Our four-and-a half-year-old granddaughter grabbed my hand, pulled, and said “C’mon grandpa!”  So – – – – – I went!

The two of us climbed into the small pod that was going to be my torture chamber (sorry!) “assigned place” on the ride for the next few minutes.  As we fastened our seat belts, the attendant lowered a metal bar and inserted a large steel pin.  We were “locked in”!  There was no turning back now!  Next, this young man walked – very casually, to his “control station”.  Hmmm – that’s when it struck me – HE was relaxed because HE was in control!  By the simple process of elimination, that meant I was NOT!

Safe in his little booth, he pushed buttons.  We began to move – slowly at first.  Then – – – we were going up and down, back and forth and around in circles – simultaneously!  And – we were accelerating!  The worst sensation was hurtling toward the fence surrounding that ride.  Here was a classic “good news/bad news scenario”.  It was good that we stopped mere fractions of an inch (so it seemed) from striking the fence.  But we didn’t really stop!  Instantly, we reversed direction – while maintaining the same insane gyrations at the same breakneck speed!  Sooo – that’s why the sign had also cautioned about – “Anyone with neck problems – – “ !

In the midst of this assault on my physical body (and mental health), I stole a fleeting look at my young granddaughter beside me.  She wore the broadest of smiles!  I grimaced – because I was convinced this machine would soon self-destruct into a heap of scrap metal.  How long would it take them to find us in the debris of this looming catastrophe?  Despite the anxiety, there was absolutely nothing I could do!

Suddenly – – – these panicked thoughts were replaced by God’s serene presence.  No, not that way – I was still alive!  He was using this as a “teachable moment” to show me:  1) I was NOT in control of this situation (another reminder!  How many times has it been now God?).  2) There was no safe way off this ride before it stopped anyway!  3) He knew exactly where I was at that very moment.  And, 4) As Lord of my life, He was in charge of everything, and – – – everything was “OK”.

You know, that’s when I relaxed and actually began to enjoy the ride!  It was soon over.  I not only lived through it (that’s obvious by now!), but I’m richer for the lessons I learned.

Just as on that amusement park ride, you and I are kinda’ “locked in” here on planet earth.  There’s no way to get off!  We’re born, grow up, live our lives and ultimately die under circumstances determined more by Divine Providence than our own choices.  God is the one who’s really in control!  The one decision we can make – indeed, we must make, revolves around our attitude of mind.  Will we keep struggling in futile attempts to hold onto control for ourselves?  Or – will we fully surrender so that God’s will can be done here on earth as it already is in heaven?  Christ asks us to pray for that (Matthew 6:10).

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will save it“ (Matthew 10:38-39 Living Bible; my emphasis).  William Barclay comments: “The Christian may have to sacrifice his personal ambitions, – – – – He will certainly have to sacrifice his will, for no Christian can ever again do what he likes; he must do what Christ likes. In Christianity there is always some cross …” (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible).

While we’re locked into this ride called ‘life’, God has many lessons for us, and – many ways to get our attention.  That evening He used my smiling, fun-loving granddaughter as the catalyst.  Children are special!  They don’t worry much about their circumstances.  Kids don’t have enough ‘sense’ to be afraid.  They aren’t ‘big’ on trying to control life.  We can learn a lot from children.

With child-like trust, we’re gradually able to relinquish what little control we think we have and yield it to God.  Sure, we still face things we don’t like to do, or don’t want to go through.  Humanly we worry – “I can’t do this; one more step and I’ll probably die!”  Instead, we learn His perfect love can drive out our fears (1 John 4:18).  As they are pushed away, “…you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 L.B.).

That powerful promise from the Lord of the universe enables you and me to be more at ease on life’s “ride”.  However – God’s peace is not only for our benefit.  Along the way you’ll meet many other people, some of whom will be fearful – concerned because their life seems out of control.  Be sure to share the lessons you’re learning; tell them about what good hands you’re in.  The same God who died to give us this assurance also loves them!  Maybe, just maybe, they’d like to get aboard this ‘ride’ too.

Mikayla, thanks for “inviting” Grandpa to go with you that night.  I’m glad you were there; we had fun together!  (And, thanks Lord for teaching those enduring lessons as You rode with us.)

Cliff Redanz lives in Pennsylvania

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