Catching the Ring

Summers are short in my home state of Rhode Island.  Surrounded by ocean on three sides, my hometown of Bristol is host to many of the happiest memories of my childhood.  One of my family's traditions was to conclude the summer with a much anticipated trip to Crescent Park, the nearby amusement park.

With candy apples still between our teeth, my sisters and I would choose our rides after a careful survey of all the possibilities and a discussion of the merits of each one. We didn't want to misspend the precious ride tickets mom and dad doled out equally.  While Cindy might choose to ride the Bumper Cars and Tina the Boats, it was an unspoken agreement that the evening would end with everyone riding the Carousel.

The Carousel was a beautifully shining affair.  Bejeweled with thousands of lights and covered in what we knew was pure gold, no decision compared to the choice of which animal we would ride on.  There were several unspoken rules to guide our choice.  First, it had to be a horse.  All other animals paled in comparison to riding one of the magic steeds. Second, it had to move up and down.  We looked with scorn and derision at the small children and grandmothers who sat on the stationary ostriches and pigs. Finally, and most important of all, the horse had to occupy a position on the outside of the carousel's circumference.

The reason for this important criteria was because of "the ring."  When we were really young, and there was some concern about whether or not we could actually stay on the horse we chose to ride, no one mentioned "the ring." But as we got older and became more accomplished equestrians, Dad chose to unveil the mystery of "the ring."

At a certain point in the carousel's orbit, there was a dispenser that held metal rings.  "If you catch the brass ring," my dad told me, "you win a free ride on the carousel."  Catching the ring was no small accomplishment, I learned.  Timing was everything, since you had to lean waaaaaaay out at just the right moment while the carousel whirled.  Skill and precision was also required.  Hooking your finger through the ring and pulling at the same time was tricky.  Add to that  the important dynamic of staying mounted on the horse while leaning out and hooking the ring, and you have quite an impressive feat.

The first summer I tried, I think I had beginner's luck.  I hooked the ring the first time I whirled past.  And the second, and the third.  Greedy with success, my head whirled as fast as my body with the thoughts of all the free rides I would take on the carousel.  After I had hooked five or six rings, I began to assess the mounting treasure hooked on the thumb of my spare hand.  Feeling generous, I began to plan how I would even be able to treat my sisters to free rides since I had accumulated so many rings.  When the ride finally ended, I brought my treasures to my dad and proclaimed, "I hooked 12 rings.  That means we can each ride four more times!"

My dad glanced at the rings I was displaying so triumphantly and broke the sad news, "I'm sorry, Lori, but you have to catch a brass ring to win a free ride."  He pointed to the sign above the ticket booth that displayed a ring much shinier than the ones I held in my once-victorious hands and he patted my back sympathetically.

I thought about that handful of worthless rings today as I was reading Ephesians 6:7-8, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does."  In the carousel economy, my well-intentioned attempts fell short of deserving a reward.  For though I caught a ring, I didn't catch the brass ring.  In God's economy, however,  every good deed I do in his name is seen, recorded, and rewarded.  Every single one.  My deeds don't have to meet a certain standard, or impact a huge number of people.  Their value is in the fact that they are offered up in faithful service to the God I love.

John Piper, in his devotional book A Godward Life, puts it this way.  "Every little thing you do that is good is seen and valued by the Lord.  And He will "pay you back" for it.  Not in the sense that you have earned anything by putting Him in your debt; He owns you and everything in the universe.  He owes us nothing, but He freely, graciously chooses to reward good things done in faith.  Nothing we do -- nothing, not one thing -- is done in vain.  "Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord.  Astounding!" (177).

May we serve the Lord and our fellow man with renewed vigor and enthusiasm, knowing that we "will reap a harvest if we faint not!"  (Gal. 6:9)

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME~ What I wouldn't give for just three brass rings today! I Love You!!!