Last month I (the Reverend) went back to the amusement park outside of Cincinnati, Ohio that thrilled me as a kid—King’s Island. I hadn’t walked through those gates since the summer of 1984. We hit the jackpot. It was a picture-perfect day with no lines. I had a marvelous time watching my son and his cousins testing their courage on these rides. Up and down, and upside down, and rolling around, and dropping precipitously as they rode ride after terrifying ride. It took me all of one roller coaster ride at the very beginning of the day to realize that I am now too old to ride most of the rides without the risk of serious injury from whiplash.

As I stood around waiting for the boys between rides I had a lot of time to think. At some point, it occurred to me that our lives often look like these rides. Up and down they go, around and around they go, rising and falling, rising and falling and sometimes getting unexpectedly drenched. And it is those unexpected movements of life that we didn’t see coming that often leave us feeling vulnerable, susceptible, unsteady and face-to-face with the mystery of life. Namely, that we are not ultimately in control of our own lives and we have no idea what the future will bring. Or even if tomorrow will come.

These thoughts make me think of a very old proverb that says, We all need a strong tower, a place to run to for safety. The wealthy think their riches will protect them.

In Wallace Stegner’s novel, Crossing to Safety he writes about two young professors and their families who come from very different socio-economic backgrounds. One comes from wealth and privilege and the other from neither. At the end of the book the wealthy wife, who wants to control everything in life, is dying of cancer and there is nothing in the world she can do to stop it. All her resources didn’t protect her or fortify her from this suffering and death. The point being life is fragile—materially, emotionally, relationally, physically, mentally—for all of us regardless or our status, power or wealth.

Where do we find a hand hold when the ground beneath our feet seems so unsteady?

In the religious world we often speak of centering ourselves in someone or something that is steady and unmoving. Or to borrow the words of the poet, we find a strong tower where we can run for safety. The idea is to build our lives on something eternal…something that will never change…something that will last and matter long after we are gone…something far greater than us. A faith, a cause, a movement to spread light. Then when the winds of life start swirling around us we’ll have a solid foundation beneath us.

What are you building your life upon that is permanent, everlasting and unchanging?

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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