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Volume 11, Issue 4: Femina

The Roller Coaster

Nancy Wilson

Though we may like to ride the roller coaster at the county fair, it’s not much fun to ride one in “real life.” We don’t want our emotions to drag us around, soaring to great heights only to plummet suddenly to the depths, and then lurch up again.

This is not to say the Christian life is not full of joys and sorrows. The psalmist himself rejoices with a fervent joy: “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock!” (Psalm 18:46a). And he expresses real grief: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 43:5a). God created
us to have emotions, and we are to enjoy the way God made us and not be at war with our creaturely quirks. Yet, we must, like the psalmist, have our joy anchored in Christ, so we don’t get swept away in a tidal wave of exhilaration. In the same way, our sorrows must be covered with the blessing and comfort of God, so that we do not become disconsolate. “Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5b).
So often when we have a joyous experience, we are unguarded and unprepared for the big let down, and so we come crashing down. Let me explain. When our children were little, we had wonderful and varied birthday celebrations. It almost became a family joke that a spanking was inevitable on your birthday, and I don’t mean the traditional birthday swats. All the excitement and focused attention led to a let down in the form of disobedience or unkindness or selfishness. In fact, it wasn’t just the birthday celebrant who could fall into sin. When our youngest was opening gifts on her first birthday, her three-year-old brother got a little out of fellowship about it all. He was heard muttering to one of his aunts, “She isn’t even a Christian!”
Christmas can present the same opportunities for sin. But does this mean we should dismiss such celebrations all together? I hope not! We are trying to recover a God-honoring theology of feasting and gladness before the Lord. I believe the wise mother can apply some reasonable precautions that both she and her children can profit by.
Let me give an example. You have had a wonderful party (a big anniversary, your child's wedding, a shower, or a surprise birthday) and all went off exceptionally well. Perhaps you were even the guest of honor. You coasted through the anticipation, the preparation perhaps caused some flurry, and the actual event was a real topper. But in the next day or two you begin to feel teary, or you react in annoyance to a small thing, or you get offended by an off-hand comment. Being close to the surface like this can be the result of allowing yourself to be too buoyant with not enough ballast on board. You may feel a little down or blue after Christmas is over and you don’t know why. I believe it is simply because you allowed yourself to get on the emotional roller coaster.
We want to teach our children the joys of celebrating whether it is at weekly sabbath feasts or birthdays or Thanksgiving. At the same time, we must not set them up for a fall by building things up too much in their minds. We want our joys to be solidly connected to our theology, not floating airily “out there somewhere.” We don’t just celebrate because everyone else does. We have reasons! The same thing can happen if you have immersed yourself in any big project. Once the project is complete, you may feel discouraged or down.
Here are a few homely suggestions that may be of use to you. Pray preventively. Prepare yourself and your children by prayer. Ask God to keep you from getting too high-spirited so you won't then fall and be low-spirited. Don’t be giddy or allow your children to be giddy or silly. If you hear too much high-pitched giddiness going on in the backyard, you should be prepared for tears to follow soon after. Go intervene before that happens. Teach your children to know why you are celebrating. “God has blessed our family with you for five years. We want to thank Him on your birthday and pray for you and rejoice with you in it!”
We live in a very feeling-oriented culture, and we have great need to discipline our emotions and make them behave. If we allow our feelings to run away, we will always be at their mercy. God is constant and never changing. We are to imitate Him in all things, including His stability and constancy.
1 Peter 1:3 exhorts us: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Sobriety is the result of paying attention to the state of our minds, noticing when they are drifting aimlessly, and reeling them in when they do.
I have never been fond of slumber parties for little girls, and when my daughters were young, I discouraged them because unless the mothers exercise a wise oversight (which usually means a decent bedtime which throws off the whole point of a “slumber” party), someone invariable gets her feelings hurt or gets angry. And if they don’t stumble at the party, they most certainly will the next morning when they have to go home and face the day.
Being a Christian does not exclude us from common temptations of the flesh. Why should we set ourselves or our children up for such things? Our rejoicings, our celebrations, our parties should all reflect a godly, thoughtful maturity that glorifies our great God and Father. We should all be striving to party in a way the world can neither imitate nor understand, and that will keep us off the roller coaster.

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