Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

My grandma took us to Disneyland nearly every year when we were growing up.  At the end of 8th grade, when the junior high school decided to take my whole class there for graduation, I wasn’t interested.  There was really only one ride I wanted to go on.  Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

It was in the kiddie section, but it was too scary for most of the children that would be in that area.  There was rarely a long line, and it took a “C” ticket or somesuch, which wasn’t one of the high demand denominations.  You didn’t get but a few of them, so you had to choose those rides well.   They don’t even have ticket denominations anymore.  Basically, baby rides like Dumbo’s flying elephants took a “B” and you had to be under 42 inches tall,  “C” was a mid-level ride, “D” tickets were never used in my book, and the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean took “E” tickets.  “E” ticket rides were hands down the best, although they also had several hour long lines.  I hate waiting, and I sunburn easily.  So while I enjoyed the other stuff, I got more bang for my buck wading through kidlets to the little cartoon cars on rails.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had a cartoon theme, and as such, things rarely were as they appeared.  As soon as you were safely belted in your little jalopy-for-two, it took off down a crooked, bumpy track into the darkness.  Brightly lit stuff would pop out at you, like the wooden policeman holding his stop sign, far too close to stop at that speed, and your car would instantly make a right-angle turn to avoid it.  You never knew which way you would turn, if you’d be tipped, or what silly siren or loud bang might accompany the next surprise.  At one point, your car even went head on with the car carrying whoever’d been next to you in line.  It all happened so fast you couldn’t make sense of an obstacle before it was gone. No matter how many times I went back, it was all familiar but still unpredictable, and I laughed just as hard as the first time.  It was pure adrenaline rush.  I loved it.

So yesterday, when I was talking with a woman who is fast becoming a good friend, I was intrigued when she likened our everyday lives to an adventure.  There is nothing like real life for a good story, she said.  Reality shows and fiction have nothing on pure humanity; honestly, you just can’t make some stuff up.

Like the guy who used to live next door when I was a teen.  My brother just reminded me of him over the holidays.  He was such a fixture in front of the TV that his wife instructed me not to vacuum between him and his game.  Even if it was a commercial break, that section of the carpet was not to be cleaned.  I could go all around him and the set, but not down that strip.  She paid me in full, even though that 12′ x 3′ swath was never touched.  Once he came outside – to watch the neighbors mow his lawn.  He even brought a lawn chair and a beer.  For himself.  My brother told about a fire pole he installed – I use the term loosely – in his garage so the kids could slide down it instead of having to walk all the way to the stairway from their bedrooms.

My family and I laughed for over an hour at the memories this family provided us.  None of us was surprised when the wife left; that house was more than any sane person could believe.   Definitely an adventure.  I can only imagine the stories those children could tell today.

But my friend tied those memories to my life right now:  if I can trust God with whatever He has planned for me, He will take me on the ride of my life.  I instantly thought of giving out my “C” ticket and climbing in my car.  The first time you experience anything, it’s scary, and darkness unsettles us all.  Then you get startled by noises and jolts, and some things are just plain yucky.  None of it is predictable, and there’s no getting off until you get back to daylight.  God is the Master Designer and Engineer, and He will ensure your safety for the ride.   I am assured that, even if I don’t make it through my ride unscathed, I will never be given anything beyond my capabilities.  Dead ends will always have an escape hatch.

The point of it all?  He wants to hear me tell my story at the end.  He wants to hear my laughter, while I clutch those who’ve gone with me and those who waited at the end, telling how He brought me through it all.  He wants to hear what brought me to tears, which part scared the daylights out of me, and how I almost wet my pants when….   God is glorified when we trust Him.  Others are encouraged that there is a purpose to it all, and that, as long as we stay in the car, we will safely get through.  We will go home with the Mickey Mouse ears.

Hang tight, my friends.  Life is a grand adventure.  We have to wait in lines, pay dearly at the gate, and be tall enough to ride sometimes.  We may need someone braver than ourselves to hold our hand.  And every good ride will drop the car out from under us at some point.  That’s just how it goes, and what makes it fun.    Trust with me that whatever is before us right now is only a part of the experience and integral to making it all worthwhile in the end.

I’ll meet you back at the big gate at sundown.  And take lots of pictures.

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