This weekend I went to Carowinds Theme Park in Charlotte and I rode the “Dale Earnhardt” Intimidator, not once, not twice, but three times (and no puking involved) with my friend Cary (Marion was content to watch from below with Cary’s mother, Carmen, who joined us for the day). I used to hate roller coasters as a young kid but grew to love them in the teen and young adult years. This one is the longest coaster in the SouthEast in terms of length of ride. There is one very huge drop at the start followed by 6 smaller ones. No loops but really high peaks at high speeds as you can see below!

This one was the first one I was on in about 3-4 years. As we climbed up to the first hill I said to Cary, “Ya know, I just realized I’m 40. I hope I’m not too old for this.”

Cary replied, “No worries. You’ll feel 19 after this ride.”

I’m not a big thrill-seeker but I really enjoy Amusement Park rides and surprisingly this one was especially reflective. I held tightly to the handles in front of me and at that first drop I held on even more tightly for dear life. As the ride went on I became more at ease and even let go, throwing my hands up over my head and got a better idea of what the ride really can offer. It really felt like I was flying once I let go.

We went back twice more. The second time I kept my hands in the air most of the ride with the exception of that first amazingly high drop. The last time I never touched a thing. Hands up the whole ride and that first drop was awesome!

I could only imagine that this must be what it feels like to be a bird on a downward flight–free falling through the air, but somehow in control.

It seems to me that this experience has much to say to us about what God calls us to become.

At times in our life we often hold tightly to different things: ideas, ways of being, relationships, etc. It’s only when we can let go, even just a little, that we start to see what else God has to offer us. We experience the freedom that God freely gives to us. And in that freedom is joy and exhilaration.

Like the rich young man, most of us don’t want to give up our sense of control–holding tightly to what we claim as comfort. One friend, who, granted, is not a technology genius, won’t dump his old America Online account even though he doesn’t need it for internet access and free email solutions abound. Why? He’s comfortable with it.

Single male friends I have don’t date because they feel like they are too “set in their ways” and are unwilling to change (even just a bit) now to give themselves in marriage to someone else.

We fear letting go of the bar to throw our hands up and really fly. And we offer all the excuses:

“Something might go wrong if I do that!” (So what if it does?)

“I can’t leave my job, even if I hate it.”

“I’ll stay in this relationship even if I know it’s going nowhere because I’m too scared to let it go and go back to that scary world of being single.”

“I can’t possibly kick this addiction.”

So today, let us appreciate the ride and pray for the courage to let go of everything that holds us back from soaring.

Who knows? You just might feel like you’re flying.

0 thoughts on “Can Roller Coasters Promote Religious Experience?”
  1. Thanks Mike. I have been holding onto some things recently and had started to become uncomfortable about it and was wondering if I had to let go. I’m certain now!!!

  2. That was a great post. I have been working on being courageous myself, having just left my job (that was making me miserable and dragging down my family). The rollercoaster was a great analogy.

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