Plummeting into fear

In Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, there’s a ride called Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain isn’t the fastest ride at the park; it’s not the scariest ride either. But there’s one heart-stopping moment on the ride that will make you think twice about it. From a lookout point in Frontier Land, spectators have a perfect view of that heart-stopping point of the ride: a 52.5-foot drop, at an angle of about 46 degrees, that each log boat, going 40 mph, must conquer before it meanders around a bend toward safety and the exit.

The five of us stood at the viewpoint and watched as boat after boat took the plunge. Crystals of water shot up like cannons as wooden vessels loaded with screaming passengers thundered downward and popped back up like empty soda cans in a bathtub. By my side a gaggle of boys raised themselves to their tippy-toes and jiggled up and down, yanking on my shorts. “Please, Mom, come on this ride with us!” I had passed on the last ride at Epcot—a simulation into space. Simulations make me sick, but real rides make me scared.

“Okay, let’s do it!” I said with false confidence.

Within forty frightful minutes, our Fast Pass had shuffled us to the top of the line. We were about to enter our log float when my husband interrupted the Disney attendant and asked if we could wait for the next boat in order to have the front seat. I don’t remember him consulting me on that one.

Aside from a handful of small drops, most of the ride was pretty low-key. But the whole time, I knew what was coming, so I couldn’t relax. I sat in fearful anticipation while a freakishly jolly tune “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”-ed me through the river. After about ten minutes of twists and turns, the vessel made an abrupt stop at the bottom of a huge incline. Fear and dread draped over me in the darkness. Above, vultures warned about my impending doom, and wooden signs cautioned me to turn back. But I knew there was no escape. I was locked into a harness; but even more importantly, I was locked into a pact with my pack of boys.

After the boat in front of us made the plunge, it was our turn to chug to the top. I braced myself, and seconds later, we barreled down the chute like a torpedo.

The photo at the end of the ride portrayed a dismal picture for me personally. My husband and the three wide-eyed boys were grinning, while I had my head buried behind my five-year old. It was embarrassing.

The four of them looked at me and chided, “Why were you so afraid?”

Do Not Be Afraid

That’s a question that comes up twice in Mark’s gospel. When the disciples were bandied about in a wooden boat in the midst of a terrifying storm, Jesus asked them why they were afraid (Mark 4:35–40). It seems like a silly question.

Later, in Mark 5, Jesus says to a frightened father, “Do not be afraid,” even though the man’s daughter has just died.

In each of these cases, fear seems to me to be a very appropriate response.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to live in fear. He wants us to live in faith.

Is there a situation you're facing today in which God is asking you, "why are you so afraid?"  Can you hear him tell you in the midst of your fear, "Do not be afraid."  

In Isaiah 41:10, God speaks to Israel, the people he has chosen.  He says:  " not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

These words ring true today for everyone who has a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  God is with you.  The God of the universe is strengthening you.  He's upholding you.  You don't have to be afraid.

Patricia Batten