Posted by: Kara Luker | December 21, 2010

Into the unknown

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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If you have never been on a zippy little Disneyland ride called Space Mountain, know that it is dark, you cannot see the tracks, and you have no idea where you will turn or drop. The speed seems to pick up as the ride goes on, carrying the cart of riders through space, squealing with delight until the abrupt end when the riders reenter the light with mussed hair and big smiles.

I can’t count the times I’ve been on this ride and will confess that I was heartbroken when it closed down for a couple years of renovation. Clearly I enjoy it. I know now that it is mild and safe, and good fun. And wouldn’t mind if it could be jazzed up a bit with bigger drops or mightier turns. But the first time I was heading onto this ride, I didn’t feel quite the same.

I must have been 8 or so. This was back in the day when my dad could go on rides. When we were waiting in line that first time for this unseen roller coaster lurking under a mysterious mountain, dad playfully poked and prodded, “Are you sure you want to go on?” “Are you really sure? There’s a chicken exit right there if you’re not…” I thought I would burst if I had to make that decision one more time. In the end, because of his presence, I mustered the courage to walk into that giant spiked mountain, sit my little body down in the ride, allow myself to be locked in place by an immovable metal bar, and make a slow clicking climb into the unknown.

The buildup peaked as our slick cart reached the top and dashed down into a dazzling darkness speckled with planets and constellations. It was terrifying and elating. What I most remember is the constant “Whooooaaaaa” of my dad that sounded like an enormous smile rising up in joyful bursts, breaking only for a moment until another slope or corner launched him into another “Whoooooaaaaa.” It was a magical experience, mostly because of my dad, and my eyes were opened to a whole new realm of adventure.

It dawned on me this week that I’m 37 and have never had a real relationship. There was a three-month fascination when I was 16, a three-year bloody mess of a marriage at 19, and several scattered aborted attempts at other times. So here I am, several dates into this thing tipping into relationship. It feels like I’m standing in line for my first ride on Space Mountain, wanting to risk it but feeling constantly tempted to get out of line. Maybe settle for another ride or another time.

But I know my heavenly dad is committed to do this with me, breaking the tension with his playfulness, holding my hand as we make that slow ascent, and opening my eyes to a new kind of adventure as we dash off into the unknown. Maybe I’ll even hear a happy “Whoooaaa” along the way.

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