Guess how many times you can ride a carousel in one day!? Actually, don’t. Just take my word for it… it’s a lot.
I know, because my kids set out to break the world record recently. We took a family trip to an amusement park, where they were able to enjoy two consecutive days of carousel-riding bliss. And I do mean bliss. These kids loved the carousel. Every time the horses lurched forward at the start of a new ride, their two little faces lit up with delight. The thrill of riding the carousel never faded. If anything, each ride seemed even more exciting than the last.
It’s funny, because I can remember feeling the same way as a kid. I remember it was a thing, riding with my dad whenever I could. And while I remember feeling that way once, at some point I lost the why behind it. I can’t quite remember what made the carousel so appealing. Because at some point, the thrill of riding the carousel does fade, doesn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful being on the carousel with my kids, watching them enjoy it so much. I treasure that time. It’s just… after the fifteenth ride I’m tired of being dizzy and would rather sit and watch, if we’re being honest.
At some point during our carousel marathon, I set out to grasp the joy of it again. I studied my kids in an attempt to learn some best practices.
Hands on the pole… check. (They probably weren’t thinking of the germs festering on those carousel poles, so I tried not to think about them either.)
Feet kind of dangling, because kid legs are too short for the stirrups… check.
Laugh a little, smile a little… check.
Nothing. I mean, still fun watching the kids and all, but something was missing. I had a lot of time on the carousel to figure it out, and eventually I did. Here was the problem:
My eyes weren’t forward.
I realized I’d spent my entire adulthood watching other people enjoy riding the carousel and wondering why my own experience wasn’t quite measuring up. I was watching tiny, adorable other people – but other people nonetheless.
I turned my eyes forward and in an instant I could see it again. I could remember. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it was actually kind of thrilling. The way all the horses went up and down at various intervals made it look like we were racing in a big pack. I could feel the wind on my face. The ride seemed to speed up and the lights and music made it feel beautifully chaotic and exciting.
Sometime after we took our last ride on the carousel, I found myself wondering if we occasionally do life in this sideways-looking way. In this era of social media, we dedicate time each day to looking and seeing what everyone is doing. It’s not wrong, necessarily, to be alongside one another and root for each other and learn from each other. But it becomes damaging when we altogether forget to look forward.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)
We were each created by God for a purpose with specific gifts, life experiences, skills, and passions that are 100% unique. Let us not miss out on the joy of knowing and living this. Let us not forget to look forward once in a while.
Better yet, let’s look up.