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The thrill of it all

Riding the roller coaster of our own doing
Riding the roller coaster of our own doing
Anna Armstrong

Every day people line up, sometimes for hours, to ride a roller coaster. For some, it is thrilling to be frightened; for others, it is a sense of cheating death. It is very interesting to wait in line listening to the people around you filled with anticipation of overcoming fear, seeing if they can hold their hands up the entire ride, or just plain excited to experience something so exhilarating. For others, it is a sense of freedom. When you hear the people coming off the ride, the conversation is very different; whether or not it was a good or bad experience for them. Adrenaline always fuels the post ride conversation. Somehow hearing the stories of survival, terror, freedom or thankfulness to be on solid ground draws in the crowd closing in to their own chance at cheating death.

If you read up on adrenaline, you find that it is “a hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla upon stimulation by the central nervous system in response to stress, as anger or fear, and acting to increase heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output, and carbohydrate metabolism.” When you hear the term “fight or flight”, the body’s response is to secrete adrenaline. Some people are adrenaline junkies; I am not! If there could be a 100% promise made that there was no way the roller coaster would fail, the car would not derail, my body would not be hurled into space, and my already damaged neck was not injured further; I would love to take a ride. Alas, no one can make those promises. The two words you never want to hear strung together in a sentence are “metal stress”. There is never a good outcome from that. Just as metal will stress, your body will strain from the constant use of adrenaline. Eventually, it becomes less and less effective and your system will burn out. When someone lives in constant stress and chaos, ultimately, the body starts to break down and the adrenal system could potentially fail from the constant strain. Whether the adrenals fail or not, exposure to long-term stress and the hormone cortisol that helps regulate the body has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, insulin resistance, obesity and Type-2 diabetes.

Life is very much a roller coaster. Just as you think you see where the road is leading you and your eyes and plans are focused on that course, wham out of the blue there is a steep turn and the bottom drops out. If you were to think about how life has a tendency to have the bottom drop out, I highly doubt that you would stand in line for those experiences. Sad but true, every day someone, somewhere has their bottom drop out. What is worse though is when we buy a ticket, stand in line, and strap ourselves into a roller coaster ride of bad decisions. It is one thing to have unexpected times where the bottom drops out, but it is worse when we fall through due to our own doing.

Just before the holidays, I made an unwavering decision to make change in my life. It was a hard decision as it involved giving up something that perceptually gave me security, companionship, social acceptance, and the idea of a future. However, what I was “giving up” was easily the most toxic thing I have ever voluntarily put in my life. Spiritually, it was straight up defiance. Quite literally, I got off a roller coaster that had been like riding on the back of an angry bull. It took almost four months to detox my mind, spirit and emotions from the self-inflicted adrenaline I had shot into my life day in and day out for a year; but the final outcome has been far better than the false sense I had been living under.

At the very start of my ride on the roller coaster, I knew the strain it would put on my life and my health. After making all the necessary self-serving excuses, I set out loosening the boards of my otherwise stable foundation. Not long into what I call “my year of bad choices”, I started to feel the full effects of my crumbling foundation. Peace, calm, stability were quickly depleting out of my life. Slowly the erosion of my prayer life, spiritual confidence and righteousness brought new consequences of fear and willful sin. Finally, after a year of living with my ever-growing losses, I had enough. Frankly, it was much sooner than a year, but when you invest into something, even something bad for you, simply walking away is difficult. Once you have enough, it is necessary.

Choosing to make such a choice right before the holidays meant a season of isolation the likes I had never experienced. After turning to a friend who promptly abandoned me despite her promise to walk the entire journey with me, meant it was time to get real and trust that God would provide all of my needs; and provide He did. Do not expect the next sentences filled with stories of lavish gifts, parties and frivolity. Instead, the provision was with blessings, the kind you have to look for in order to count. While I did not have people to make holiday meals for, I had a little nest egg to help provide meals for those families in need at the holidays. Not cooking a big meal meant that I was not cleaning up a big mess! While wishing for love in my life, one night I realized how much I am loved when a friend text me just before I went to sleep that she loved me. Doesn’t everyone want to hear that they are loved just before bed? Having made such a large change in my life allowed me to have more free time. That free time away from bad choices allowed me to do ministry work, which by itself is an immeasurable blessing. Working for ministries such as The Gift, The Bridge Ministries and The A21 Campaign reminds me all of the time how much God loves all of us right where we are, and that life with Him is nothing short of stability, peace and love.

After four months of detoxing my life, breakthrough finally came. So many times we hear the term breakthrough and forget it means to break through. Breakthrough sounds like some sort of soft glow appears and then everyone lives happily ever after. When you Google the term “breakthrough” you find that it means, “An act of overcoming or penetrating an obstacle or restriction. A military offensive that penetrates an enemy's lines of defense. A major achievement or success that permits further progress.” When I read that, I definitely do not imagine a soft glow. Breakthrough is hard but once you get through, you can begin to heal in earnest. Having to go through breakthrough, you learn how wise the Scriptures are when it says, “to obey is better than sacrifice”. Of course, I knew that, even a year ago.

Challenging one’s self by getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing thrills and excitement, even having moments of sheer adrenaline is all a part of life. However, those should only be moments and not a lifestyle. When you purposefully chose to live on adrenaline, you will not only find yourself burned out, but facing the need for breakthrough.

Now that I have disembarked the roller coaster, I can say with absolute conviction of spirit that as I walk away with the stories of pure adrenaline, that the next time I visit an amusement park, I think I will stick to the junk food. At least I will only be sick for a day and my recovery time will be much quicker. While a roller coaster can make your tummy sick, at least a hot dog digests and is eliminated naturally!

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