Last year, one of my sons excitedly handed me a paper with information on how he could win a free ticket to a Six Flags theme park by adding hours onto his regular school reading requirement. He was determined to do whatever it took to get his ticket. So he did the extra reading, submitted his hours, and won the ticket! We planned our trip date, and he began looking at the crazy list of rollercoasters, picking out the ones he most wanted to ride (Superman was at the top of the list!) The excitement and anticipation was building!
As we neared our trip, I was exhausted from an especially busy month of traveling and knew I was squeezing out my last bit of energy to make it the long distance to Six Flags and back. I prayed for God’s grace and energy and enlisted some friends to pray that we would have a fabulous day at the park.
But sometimes, things just don’t go the way we plan or hope they will…
Without getting into details, let’s just say that due to unexpected terror upon seeing the size of the towering roller coasters, most of the rides on the wish list did not get ridden by the Harrang duo. There were tears, big feelings of shame for not having the courage to go on the big rides, and while this mama tried my best to validate and comfort, I also responded to my kiddo’s big emotions with some frustration, which did not help. In addition, due to my fatigue, I got nauseous toward the end of the trip and had to sit out the last few rides.
This was not the day either of us had envisioned.
While we were able to enjoy some fun shows and milder rides, a looming sense of disappointment was in our hearts. Then, as my son and I walked along in the park toward the end of our day, I had a revelation. I said to him, “What if the point of today was not to ride the biggest rides or have a perfect day? What if God’s goal was simply for us to be together – that through your fears and my exhaustion, I could be there for you, and you could be there for me?”
Joy is not about everything going just right. It is about having someone who is glad to be with us. That was the beauty of our trip. We got to do this thing together!
It would be wonderful if my revelation magically fixed everything for my son. It did help him, but as the following few days passed, he was still weepy at times with disappointment over how the day went. And I understood – after all he had his heart set on this blissful day where we conquered the towering rides he had never before been big enough to ride! At the same time, I wanted freedom for him – a full return to joy. And God in His goodness made a way.
About 4 days after our return, I had an idea pop in my head to invite him to read his Bible with me in my room. We ended up reading together, discussing, and praying. It was wonderful! As I noticed how connected to me and God he was feeling, I asked if he would like to ask God how He wanted to help him with his disappointment over Six Flags. He readily said yes. We asked and listened, and God spoke to Him. He showed him how He was washing away the disappointment so he could remember all the good parts about our day. And then we shared our favorite memories, because there were many good memories to the day. And just like that, the disappointment broke off!
The very next day my son told me, “Mom, ever since we prayed I haven’t felt any disappointment.”
THANK YOU JESUS!
So often we have our hearts so set on what life is supposed to look like that we can fail to have joy when things don’t go the way we planned. But true joy is not about a life that is free from pain and disappointment – it comes from the relationships we have (first and foremost with God) and enjoying each other’s presence regardless of circumstance.
We might not have had our dream day at Six Flags. However, my son learned such a powerful lesson. He learned that he can return to joy from shame and disappointment. He learned that even when things don’t go as planned, there is joy to be found. He experienced once again that God is more than able to heal his hurting heart. And in the end, we found ourselves more connected to each other.0