I love rollercoasters. Whether it’s the Oblivion, Nemesis, Colossus, or even the Revenge of the Mummy ride at Universal Studios in Florida, there’s nothing more thrilling than being scared to death on a rollercoaster!
I vividly recall the first time I rode one. I was in the queue to ride the famous Grand National wooden coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 8 years-old and the closer I got to the front of the queue, the bigger the ride began to look, and the more scared I felt.
Just before we got to the front of the queue, I turned to my Dad and said, “I’ve changed my mind; I don’t want to go on.” He didn’t seem too pleased.
“I haven’t queued up for the past half hour, not to go on”, he responded. “I’m getting on this ride, and so are you!” So I did. And I loved it; and I still do, almost 50 years later.
But I don’t think I would ever have gotten on that Blackpool beast if my dad hadn’t been with me. You see, I trusted my dad. The way I saw it, he wouldn’t let me go on a fairground ride that wasn’t safe.
And what’s more, he didn’t let me go on the Grand National by myself; he was sitting there right next to me. His presence made all the difference in the world to me.
I’m constantly grateful to God for my parents, even though there were plenty of things they wouldn’t allow me to do when I was a teenager, which didn’t impress me at all. But I never doubted that they loved me, and I knew I could always trust their motives behind their “yeses and noes”, whether I liked it or not.
And in our own married life, one of the greatest thrills, and most awesome responsibilities for Linda and I has been parenting our two boys, watching them grow and begin to flourish in their own unique ways, in adult life.
And we still want them to know that, above anything else, their mum and dad love them. Those of us who are privileged to be parents don’t always find it easy to communicate such important things to our offspring.
When the Australian golfer Greg Norman, nicknamed “The Great White Shark”, was at the peak of his powers, he was one of the most ice-cold golfers on the circuit. He apparently learned this “cucumber coolness” from his father.
Norman said: “I used to see my father, getting off a plane or something, and I’d want to hug him. But he’d only shake my hand.”
Greg was at the 1996 Augusta Masters, arguably golf’s most prestigious tournament, when he made these remarks. Going into the final round, he was six shots clear of the field and seemed destined to win the coveted “Green Jacket”.
But it wasn’t to be. Norman let his lead slip, allowing his great rival Nick Faldo to beat him. After Faldo had sunk a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green to seal victory by five shots over Norman, he then walked towards the big Australian, who tried to smile, waiting for the customary handshake. Instead, he found himself in a bear hug embrace from Faldo.
As they held each other, Greg Norman began to weep. Later, he would comment, “I wasn’t crying because I lost; I’ve lost a lot of golf tournaments before, and I’m sure I’ll lose a lot more. I cried because I’d never felt that from another man before. I’ve never had a hug like that in my life.”
Greg Norman learnt a lot of things from his father, but never experienced that depth of intimacy in their father/son relationship. However good or bad our relationship with our earthly parents, the Bible promises me that, one of the greatest joys of being a follower of Jesus, is that I can know Almighty God as my loving, Heavenly Father.
1 John 3:1 invites you and I to, “Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are.”
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