Christ’s abundant life
The tension between the carousel and Christ and His abundant life will always be my focal memory of the fair. When I see a carousel at a park or in a store parking lot, both happy and struggling memories of the fair instantly return, most are carefree and happy. A few of my memories birthed out of a struggling young boy trying to be a man or at least an older boy. Because of Christ, the real differences were in me, not in the fair. In our area of the country, the fair happens once a year and every year it has roughly the same rides, games, rodeo competition, animals, and food. The fair did not change; what I did and who I was because of the fair changed.
When I was young, my mother and father would always take my brother and me to see the farm animals. One of my happy moments in the barn was when we saw a horse and I would say “cow.” This frustrated my older brother; he could always be counted on to correct me. “Horse!” he would angrily reply. I would calmly repeat “cow”, although I knew it was a horse. I could usually get in about four rounds like this before my father would have to break us up. The truth of it was that my older brother was always the “brainy one,” but I had mastered the art of making him angry.
As we got a little older, we moved on to the games. The object of one game was to throw a wooden ring, trying to make it drop onto a wooden peg. If you succeeded you received a stuffed animal. I have no idea why I wanted a stuffed animal, at least not until I was in Middle School and I could give the stuffed animal to a girl. But the game I remember the most was a game where I lost, but thought I had won. It was a game where a man would guess my weight, and then I would step on a scale to see if he was correct. If he was within five pounds, I lost. But if he guessed a weight that was more than 5 pounds over or under my actual weight, I won a little prize like a small magnifying glass or a funny pencil. It was not until I grew older that I finally realized the man who guessed my weight did not mind losing. I had to pay 50 cents to play. If I won, I received a prize worth 10 cents. The man made money either way. Maybe I really won; fifty cents is an inexpensive education about people.
Finally, when I reached the early teen years, the rides were the focus. Mostly, we just walked around trying to look brave, pretending to not notice the girls were watching us while we were watching them. Of course the girls were not really watching us; they were really looking at the boys who were a few years older than us. I still do not fully understand what was happening in our young teenage brains.
The fair always provided opportunities to learn lessons about life; like about food and money. Sometime during our time at the fair, my father and mother would get us something to eat. Mother always warned me I should eat something like a sandwich with a salad and a glass of milk. But since at the fair I could choose whatever I wanted, I would usually have a corn dog (or two corn dogs) and some ice-cream. (This is something I learned to regret when I got older and began riding on the “big rides.”) The other problem for me was later in the day when I finally arrived home. It was then I realized all my money was gone and all I had to show for it was an upset stomach and a useless toy magnifying glass worth 10 cents.
It is amazing how much is life is like the fair. For example, when I was about fifty-five years old, I began to evaluate my life with Christ, similar to how I evaluated my day at the fair. I discovered much of what I had been doing was really just a diversion from Christ’s call to “set aside the world’s attraction and just come to me.” The problem is that in the world (where we battle to do well, look good, and have more stuff), we have a sense of control. Really “coming to Jesus” means I have to give up control.
Christ’s call is like if you are on a carousel, moving forward with an up and down motion, but you are not really going anywhere, and suddenly, you notice Jesus off in the near distance. He is signaling for you to come to Him and climb up on His white horse behind Him. He is asking you to give up control of your life and let Him take you where He wants you to go. It can be scary to lose control, but it can also be exhilarating. Living in Christ’s story rather than writing your own story can sometimes be exhausting, discouraging, and lonely. Yet there is in your heart a sense that you know you are right where God wants you to be. This is the place where your life is driven and led by the Spirit. This is the place God calls you to; leaving your life of seeking respect, recognition, approval, control, and safety.
If you believe God is calling you to a Spirit-driven and Spirit-led life, find a place where you can be quiet for a few moments. Open your Bible, learn about Jesus, and talk to God about your desire to know Him more deeply. Get to know Jesus as you would any friend, talking to Him frequently. You will discover the richness of His abundant life for you. It will not be an easy life, but it will be Christ’s abundant life for you nonetheless.