There's a new Disney theme park with a rollicking state-of-the-art roller coaster ride - reputed to be the longest in the world - not far from my home. It's terrific. You zoom from zero to 50 miles per hour in a couple of seconds, then whoosh through turns, race up peaks, plunge down a waterfall-steep drop, even whiz through a loop that has you completely upside down for a moment. It's a wild ride, one that my kids and I recently enjoyed together. Trouble is, since trying it a few weeks ago, I feel like I haven't quite been able to get off and leave it behind.
Every time I check the stock market news, there I go again. Zoom, whiz, whoosh. And most of all, plunge. I know I'm not the only one who has been feeling a bit upside down lately. Friends tell me about years of stock market gains wiped out faster than a thrill ride drops. While that's not really true, I know what they mean.
In the last day or two, though, I've experienced a welcome steadying of my outlook. And it hasn't been coming just from the slim rays of sunny news piercing through the otherwise stormy market forecasts. It has come, unexpectedly, from a well-known Bible story I initially thought had no relevance to stock market turbulence.
Consider the New Testament episode of Jesus and his disciples as they crossed a large lake by boat. A sudden storm came up that battered their vessel with waves, filled it, and nearly sent them all plunging to seabed depths. And Jesus? He was asleep in the back of the boat. Talk about staying steady in the midst of turbulence! When, in desperation, the disciples finally woke him, he responded with his usual authority. "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39).
There's so much to ponder in this story. Perhaps most compelling is what Jesus must have been knowing that kept him so utterly calm and capable of calming his disciples' fears, calming even the surrounding environment. Wasn't it his unsinkable conviction that God - who is ever-present divine Love - is in complete control of His own creation? And that because of His all-encompassing power, nothing ever spins out of divine control.
Thinking about Jesus' example, and reaching for even a tiny bit of that conviction have brought more steadiness to my outlook. A greater calm concerning daily affairs. And I feel it's also helping me make wiser decisions. I've glimpsed that well-being, including financial well-being, isn't vulnerable to forces outside or foreign to God and His love. Because, from God's point of view, there are no foreign forces, and there is no outside.
This isn't to suggest that Christian prayer can be used as a mental technique to jack up your stock's prices, perhaps while the rest of the world slides. No. But turning to divine Love with quiet confidence does remind us that real wealth - the understanding of love - is undepleteable. And the gains in understanding that come from God are permanent.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote a passage that speaks of this kind of gain:"It is wise to be willing to wait on God, and to be wiser than serpents; to hate no man, to love one's enemies, and to square accounts with each passing hour. Then thy gain outlives the sun, for the sun shines but to show man the beauty of holiness and the wealth of love" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," pg. 17).
I'm looking forward to my next roller coaster ride with my kids, whenever that opportunity comes along. And I'm going to enjoy the plunges, along with all the whizzing, zooming, and looping upside down. In the meantime, I think I'll stay a bit steadier through any more market changes. I'm going to remember that the gains I make are gains in understanding Love's control. And that because of Love's presence I don't have to sink. Neither does anyone else.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor