We paid our admission to the Maid of the Mist and got into line with hordes of people at Niagara Falls. Complimentary postcards were thrust into our hands: Explore the Roar they said. A proclamation and a challenge. We were in for a little adventure. Since 1846 these little boats had been providing a thrill for those seeking to get a little closer to the greatest source of electrical power in the world. We were in for a roar all right. And a soak, I thought, as we donned our large blue ponchos, ready to look like oversize versions of those bags they put flyers in to throw them into our driveways.
Friendly line-mates compared Niagara thrills with us, agreeing this was the best. "There's a moment", this Kilimanjaro climber excitedly proclaimed, " when it really feels like you are coming into the presence of God". That's it! I thought. That's why we do things like this. We want a memorable experience that takes us closer to the author of natural wonders, something that takes us out of ourselves and reminds us of our smallness in the face of creation.
Satisfyingly soaked, we smiled our way on the elevator ride back up to the souvenir shop and hunted for a hot cup of tea. Another line for that, with another friendly person. A worker for the Midway rides, she enthusiastically recommended some sites to round out our day. I politely listened, then gratefully took our Earl Grey bags in cardboard and water to a table by the window overlooking the park. Our next destination, for a rest on a bench until the drops of rain started. What a blessing amid Midway madness, strange creatures glaring at us from atop buildings and peeping from doorways and windows, that there were flowers, benches, grass, sanity and peace in the midst of the competition with Mother Nature for first prize in thrills.
Why should we need more than the roar of the Falls? Drenching from its spray and a confrontation with our vulnerability in its wake? Recognition that without the motor power and the soundness of that small craft we would be bobbing (if we were lucky) on the water or sucked under by the current?
Recalling Aslan's roar and realizing how easily we underestimate God's power, I contemplated our spirituality, our church life, our Christian events. What do they resemble? Are they like the Falls, the spray, the roar, in their (super)natural wonder and magnificence? Are they even like the natural serenity of the park, the trees, the flowers, the grass, the unhurried quiet away from busyness? Or are they like cheap thrills ( or not so cheap) - Ripley's Believe It or Not, wax replicas of real people, cheesy imitations of real beauty, the list goes on. Do we try to dish out "spiritual" experience like souvenirs, T shirts stamped "Been there..done that..."? You know the deal. What's the "take home" from church/prayer time/worship for you/me? What are we looking for?
And could we say, as with Niagara Falls, that we get what we look for? That finding the "real thing" is only for those who really want it? That there are lots of substitutes beckoning to us all the time..so near, and yet, needing a search, a definitive choice, a saying no sometimes in order to say yes.
If we want to explore the roar, if we want to taste the peace afterwards, we may need to be sure, be ready, and be willing to be satisfied with nothing but the real thing.