On the Disney Magic cruise ship, there is an unusual waterslide. Not only does this enclosed-tube waterslide have a clear section that extends out over the ocean, but it starts with a sudden drop. Instead of sitting down to board, you stand in place, leaning against the vertical back of the slide. As soon as you’re ready, the waterslide operator punches a button and the ground drops out from underneath you. Suddenly, you’re shooting downward, water surges around you as the slide twists and turns out over the side of the ship and back in again. Instead of a large splash in a pool at the end, riders coast to a stop like a roller coaster, where they can stand up and walk away (or get right back into the line).
Though I didn’t ride this slide when given the opportunity (I’ll stick with the hot tub, thank you very much), I have metaphorically ridden that slide in life where it felt like the solid ground I was standing on was pulled out from under me. It happened when friends shut me out, when it felt like God was far away, when I moved to a new place and got lost everywhere I went, when I left a leadership position to start over at the bottom of the totem pole. Maybe for you it was when a family member got sick. When a relationship ended. When the gossip in your church turned against you. When the job offer fell through and you wondered what God could possibly mean when He promised you hope and a future.
Something or someone you depended on for your foundation fell through and just like that, life was a waterslide. It’s all you can do not to drown in the rushing waters of anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty. Perhaps someone advised you to “go with the flow.” But you know that flow is a terrifying drop, a hairpin turn, a season where you feel like you’re headed straight into the dark ocean of fear.
But something happens on the waterslide that I believe always happens in life. It turns back to the ship. The Disney waterslide designers didn’t leave you out there suspended over the ocean only to fall overboard and drown or to get stuck. They had a plan when they built it. They tested it and approved it. Thousands of others have gone before, each successfully arriving safely back on the deck of the ship.
To poorly paraphrase Matthew 7:11, how much more does your Father in Heaven plan for your good than the Disney waterslide designers! Sure, we will encounter legitimate heartache, suffering and pain. Those are realities for every believer. But we will never be abandoned. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) It may be the hardest thing we ever do, but we have to surrender and trust. (Psalm 56:3-4)
Popular micro-podcast “30 Seconds or Less” posted a quote recently from “Finding Nemo” that fits pretty well with my Disney cruise ship waterslide revelation.
“As they’re about to fall into the belly of the whale Dory says, ‘You have to let go!’ Marlin cries out, ‘Let go? But how do you know everything will be OK?’ Dory’s next two words are profound: ‘I don’t.’ In other words, just keep swimming.”
When you hold on to the walls of a waterslide, you get stuck in the raging waters. You delay the scary drops and twists, but you don’t escape them, you just build them up in your mind as bigger than they are.
My sister did go on the cruise ship’s waterslide. She reported back that though she was nearly too scared to go through with it at first, she was actually disappointed the ride was so short! She made the decision to boldly face the vertical drop as she shivered at the tip-top of the ship and stared out over the journey ahead. Then, mere seconds later, she wished it lasted longer.
I wonder if that is true of our seasons of risk as well, whether we voluntarily hop on board or not. Maybe at the end of the ride, we will find ourselves missing the rush of the experience, the trust it required of us, the faith we developed because it was the only thing we could hold onto.
Because of the Disney brand, I know even before seeing “Finding Nemo” or going on one of their rides to expect a happy ending. Obviously, Disney isn’t perfect. Like all humans, they are susceptible to human error. But I also know Disney wants their customers happy, healthy… and continually purchasing park passes, vacations, theater tickets and nearly anything they can possibly attach to mouse ears.
But it is so much harder for some reason, at least for me, to blindly trust that God has a plan when I’m hurtling down a waterslide of doubt. I feel the floor drop out from under me and suddenly I’m asking God if He really knows what He is doing here after all.
But at the end of that chaotic season of life, I can now look back at where I’ve been and instead of seeing a tower of fear, I see a monument to His faithfulness.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
– Isaiah 25: 9