Stepping Off the Roller Coaster
Something happened during this month in 1884 that many people would consider historically significant: America’s first gravity-powered roller coaster opened at Coney Island in New York City. LaMarcus A. Thompson’s attraction (“Switchback Railway”) was a huge success. And why not? This thrilling ride traveled at six miles per hour on a six-hundred-foot track. Within four years, he had built fifty more coasters across the nation and in Europe.
By the 1920s, North America had about two thousand roller coasters. The popularity of amusement parks waned during the Depression and World War II, when money was scarce and wood and rubber were needed for the war effort. Roller coasters experienced a rebirth when the nation’s first Disneyland theme park opened in 1955. Some of today’s roller coasters reach or exceed one hundred miles an hour on increasingly complex tracks that have twists, loops, and drops.
I have never stepped on a roller coaster, and never plan to do so. But I have experienced an emotional roller coaster ride on many occasions. Up on the mountaintop one day, down in a deep valley the next. My emotions can quickly plunge from ecstasy to agony. It only makes things worse that I live with a husband who doesn’t understand why everyone can’t live on an even keel as he does (think a perfectly straight horizontal line).
I’m pretty sure that if I ever rode a roller coaster, I would throw up. But that embarrassment and inconvenience pales in comparison to the consequences of frequent rides on an emotional roller coaster. Extreme emotions and stress cause all sorts of physical and psychological harm. The older I get, the more I understand the need to cultivate a spirit of peace, contentment, and trust.
Our life will have plenty of “twists, loops, and drops.” But that doesn’t mean we have to feel as though we’re on a continual roller coaster ride. How do you handle life’s stresses in a way that safeguards your mind and heart?
*This material is adapted from On This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays and Historical Events.
Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion, which won a 2013 Selah Award. She also writes for websites and blogs, contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus), and teaches at writers’ conferences. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.