Bumper CarsI thought: that lot used to have bumper cars, not the cheesy kind at amusement parks, the kind with loud engines that reeked of gasoline. They were fast…or seemed so. Around each “car” was a huge tire. When you banged into somebody else, you really bounced. I went there once with friends, a brother, and a cousin, and we laughed hysterically all evening.

Years later, the same cousin took us to a water park in the Middle of Nowhere, Canada. The water park had inner tubes and rapids and no lines – we went for one ride after another after another. It was bliss. If I lived nearby, I would never have worked again!

Water ParkOn the other hand, I remember going to Disneyland with my niece when she was four. She was tall enough for a rollercoaster, but as the ride began, she said: “I don’t think this ride is for my age group!” She cried the whole way.

Disneyland RollercoasterIt can be fun to jostle and bounce around when we know it’s safe. It’s no fun to be bounced around when we aren’t sure. And it’s no fun when life bounces us around. We can think: this part of life’s ride isn’t for us!

In the past few months, there has been much unplanned, unpleasant jostling among some family members, friends, and parishioners: saying goodbye to an old friend moving away, hearing that friends have cancer, blowing a goodbye kiss to a dying parishioner who could no longer talk.

As unpleasant and bumped and jostled as I’ve felt, my faith leads me to believe that as hard – even as horrible – as life can be, it is within a context of safety. Not safety that we won’t be hurt, but that, as Paul says, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Some use the word “saved” to describe this state of being, but I prefer the word “safe,” in the sense that we are held in God’s hand as we laugh hysterically and as we cry pitifully.

Life jostles us, shakes us, bumps us, and worse. Sometimes it’s blissful and centering. Sometimes it’s awful and disorienting. But all of this ride, all of life, is for us.