The night was dripping in darkness, save the last violent beam of light bursting from the headlights of the little gas-powered golf-cart. All two-hundred students assembled back in the lodges, preparing to sleep or scheming a prank. But on the other side of Kulaqua Youth Camp, myself, José, and Daniel (these names have been altered to protect the proud and insecure), drove to the furthest reaches of the long asphalt stretch because José had something he wanted to teach us. The brakes thumped, the tires screeched, and the road stopped underneath our wheels.
“Okay, Keith,” José said. “You are the smallest of us. You drive. Daniel, come back here.”
Under José’s instruction, Daniel stood on the back of the golf-cart, leaning against the back railing and holding the roof of the carriage for support. The cart leaned under the four-hundred-fifty-odd pounds of manly weight.
“Okay,” José said, looking my way again. “When I say, ‘Go’, you floor it.”
I was giggling with anticipation, having seen this happen before, but never taken part.
“GO!” José shouted.
I pounded my foot through the floor-board. The accelerator smashed under its pressure; the cart hiccuped and stuttered before throttling back and slapping its rear-end into the asphalt. Smoke flew from the rubber, the tires squealed, sparks showered into the sky, arching golden fire clusters six-feet high over the heads of the men on the back who held on for dear life and skated inches off the ground. We were in hysterics, wondering how long we could travel on two-wheels. But—oh, God!—the road was about to turn right. I panicked in laughter, and in my desperation, turned the steering-wheel, forgetting that there is no steering available on a golf-cart whose front feet are jutting out in the air. José jumped from the back railing. Daniel followed. And the cart crashed down. But my front-wheels were cocked ninety-degrees to the right. The golf-cart hammered them into the ground and tripped on its front feet, sending the rear upward in lost momentum. The entire vehicle rose forward and for a brief moment, I had the exhilarating feeling of being in a car upside down again. I achieved weightless wonder. But the carriage didn’t flip. It dropped backward and the carriage rolled cockamamie through the grass at the end of the straight-away. I fell out of the vehicle and, but the sound of crickets and night sky, all anyone could hear was my coughing, joyful laughter.
Such was how the night ended on the evening I became youth pastor at TNT Youth Camp. And became quite the tradition until 2021’s last and final year when I stuck Whitney and her husband on the cart with me, and let her drive us into the night with showers of golden sparks and fire pouring out of the back-end of a reckless ride.
Over my brief years as a father, I’ve had a few conversations with my oldest develop as, “AnnaBelle, you should try this roller-coaster,” or “…watch this movie (i.e. ‘The Lord of the Rings’). You might like it.” And she would reply, “It’s scary though.” And then I catch myself saying, “Well, sometimes scary things can be fun.”
But I hate this statement and that I would ever have said it or thought it. Because scary things aren’t fun (at least, they shouldn’t be). God has not given us a spirit of Fear. So why would I welcome and desire it? The honest truth is that I do, in fact, enjoy things that happen to bring me fear. And not just roller-coasters or movies. But many, many more things. And I can’t help but imagine there is a hunger for fear in me—and not just me, but many of us. So are we all broken and wicked to crave this thing of Fear?
I was driving in Cocoa earlier this week and saw the skid-marks of some daredevil who sent his car careening up and over a bridge that crossed I-95. I couldn’t help but think how dangerous it was, but my immediate thought was, “Someone had a ton of fun last night.” And then I asked myself the question again. “What is it about Fear that draws me? When I have proclaimed in my heart to live for power, love, and clarity, and quite frankly, anything but Fear.”
But if I dig deeper into my soul, I find it is not Fear that draws me. It is the reckless sensation of losing control. Quite simply, I do not want to crash the car, but I do have a desire to peel out and lose, ever so briefly, all control of the vehicle and test myself to find a way back in.
It’s the same reason we love zip-lining, standing on the edges of cliffs, flying planes, instead of merely riding on them, loop-de-loop roller-coasters, or pulling 2 G’s down the off-ramp in our sports car. There is something far more exhilarating about hiking five miles to the campsite where I am hours from civilization and cellular service. Because Jetty Park is only a step above a mobile-home arcade, but the Great Outdoors are wild and dangerous. And if I cut myself or forget to bring a blanket, I will have to find a solution to the problem with my own wits and wisdom. It’s not Fear that draws us, but the feeling of losing control.
Consider video-games. Moments of my adolescent life, I daydreamed of how successful I would be if I lived in a time similar to the Middle Ages. Because my avatar self, wandering the landscape of Morrowind and Cyrodiil, was rich beyond my wildest dreams and quite famous. Of course, then I would remember how many deaths and restarts it took, as well as how much pillaging, thieving, and murder I had to commit. Video-games act this way upon us, and less and less people are immune to their luster. Because they offer us the experience of a wild adventure that is only a mistake away from death, but only require from us the confines of a controller and power-on button. We are—all of us—seeking the exhilarating feeling of being out of control, without the fear of what may come. It’s why society likes scary movies, or at the very least, scary adventures. Not because we enjoy being scared (I suppose some who have perverted their minds with horror and animalistic behavior—and the same for a desire to use narcotics), but rather we like the feeling of losing control, without the fear of consequence.
I believe it is something God put in us that makes us crave rollercoasters and scary adventure movies. Or laughing on the back of a wild golf cart that’s on two wheels. It’s not fear that draws us in. Because God would not want us to crave such a thing. Though it is scary and fearful. (For, of course, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord.) It’s the craving for actually letting go and being completely out of the control of our lives.
Just as He has written eternity on our hearts, He has written a desire to lose control. We would not crave it if it were not so. But it is Fear that drives us back to control (or attempting to control). It’s what drove the children of God to try to stow away God’s Manna each day. Because it’s a fearful thing to let go of the food in my hand and trust God will give more tomorrow. But that faithless provision would turn to maggots and rotting bread each night if I didn’t. And the same our Fear will do to us. It will keep us nice and safe, away from the challenge, adventure and faith, until we are rotting away like a worn piece of old bread at the end of our lives. And we keep playing our video-games, and getting all dressed up for Halloween, and watching scary films just to get ourselves a flurry of adrenaline and try to trick ourselves into believing we live an adventurous, faith-filled life.
Are we capable of truly losing all control and giving up?
I remember an afternoon before our youth church left for that same TNT Youth Camp, only I was much younger. Somewhere around nineteen or twenty. And Chris Johnson was tossing his baby-boy Aden into the air. Chris would fling him up, Aden would cackle in the sky with joy, and the rushing, powerful force of gravity would bring him down into his father’s arms again. That was pure, out-of-control, joy lost in faith in a father.
What will happen?
My Father will catch me!
This stands in the way of all earthly wisdom. Natural wisdom says it’s reckless and foolish to lose control and let go of everything. We are, after all, the most insured generation to have ever existed. Car insurance, flood insurance, home insurance, life insurance. How foolish it must be to let go of reason, understanding, routine, regiment, schedules, and beliefs! But with God, it is holy and perfect.
Say goodbye to Control. Say farewell to needing everything on your timetable and under your understanding. Live like a child thrown in the air by your Father’s arms. And you may enjoy your life a lot more.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
“And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master.’”