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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Merry-Go-Round

March 25th, 2007

I’m not certain they even exist anymore but during my childhood days they were the centerpiece of every elementary school playground. The merry-go-round. The big, spinning fun maker whose only safety feature was some anti-skid bumps on the metal platform.

It was quite simple in construction. A base platform mounted on a center spindle containing sealed and well greased ball bearings. As for handles, they were simple, too. Just a burn your hands in summer, freeze your hands in winter bare metal bar. They all started out new with shiny paint but after a season or two of being grabbed and jumped on, always ended up back to a dull gray primer color. No seat belts, no safety harnesses and no warning stickers or disclaimers to ward off litigation in the event of injury. Just an old fashioned self-propelled joyride.

When you’re a grade schooler the merry-go-round is just another fun piece of jungle gym equipment. Yet it was really an unknowing exposure to the laws of physics. The mass x acceleration stuff. As even the beginning rider soon realized, the speed of the merry-go-round was in direct proportion to the force exerted upon it. If you were the lone 2nd grader taking a solo ride you grabbed hold, hunkered in your 7-year old shoulders and pumped your little Levi legs as hard as you could to get it started. It moved, slowly at first then gradually gaining momentum. A couple times around the circle now you’re past a trot and starting to run. The bottoms of your Keds are beating the circular trail of rock hard dirt, pounded into pavement by a million pairs before you. Now it’s not work anymore. You’re running as fast as you can. Instead of getting the merry-go-round to keep up with you, you’re trying to keep up with it. Your sweaty hands still have a grip, but just barely, until that moment when you jump…..and land on the platform, throw your head back and watch the world spin.

It’s a great ride. But like all great rides, after a few times the thrill isn’t what it used to be. By yourself, you can only get it spinning so fast. It can and will go faster when you’re a 6th grader. But who wants to wait four years? Then you figure out that there is more than one way to make the merry-go-round go faster.

Get somebody bigger than you to spin it for you.

They spin, you ride. What a deal.

For many kids, the somebody bigger was often their Dad. And the first time you raise the idea to your Dad that he should spin while you ride, he would kindly oblige. But Dad, being older, has a better understanding of physics than you do. They know their mass x acceleration has considerably more oomph than your mass x acceleration. So they spin you. But not very fast. They’re being safe. They don’t want you to lose your grip. They don’t want you to fall off. After all, how would that look? Dad knows that if you come home bleeding with a playground road rash Mom isn’t going to be understanding when she finds out you got G-forced off the merry-go-round by your own father. So Dad is cautious.

But you; you don’t like caution. You want speed. If you wanted slow you’d spin it yourself.

Faster. Make it go faster.

You can see the look in His eyes. He’s smiling. But like a governor on an engine his pace stays constant.

Faster, you say. You want to go faster. “C’mon Dad! Make it go faster!”

You’re not sure if he changed his mind or if you convinced him you could handle it or if he just got weary of hearing you plead for speed. But Dad finally responds. He throws his weight into the next grab and pull and release and before you have time to think he’s grabbed and pulled and released again. And again. And again. Each time thinking the merry-go-round speedometer has topped out and then realizing with a white knuckle grip as the blurred image of your Dad flashes past that you were mistaken. You catch your breath and an involuntary scream escapes your throat as you feel the thrill you knew was there to be had.

This is new territory.

When you’re your own power source, you’re always within yourself. But this is something different. The power source is beyond you. Your head is thrown back and the world is whirling. This is the thrill you couldn’t get without the help of someone bigger doing the spinning.

It all happens in a flash. A micro burst of excitement. And a sudden fear that your grip isn’t what you thought it to be. A second guessing of your wishes. Your plead for speed becomes a cry of “No! Slow!” You’ve never figured the merry-go-round as something you wanted to jump off yet you’re now entertaining the thought. But you’re relieved of coming up with an escape plan when Dad stops the spinning. He sees you’re at your limit. So he stops grabbing and pulling and releasing and lets the momentum spin itself out. With every slowing rotation he comes clearer into focus. You got what you asked for. A speed you couldn’t attain on your own. You just need someone bigger to spin you.

The merry-go-round. We’re all on it. For some of us it’s barely moving. It may even feel like it’s stopped. For some, it’s spinning fast. It feels like we’re losing our grip and we’re about to fly off. For others of us, we’ve gotten the speed we’ve been pleading for and though not regretting, we’re rethinking our request while marveling at the power of God and His ability to spin our merry-go-round. In September of 2000 I was standing on my merry-go-round looking at God, alternately crying and cussing and pleading for speed after years of futility in my desire to have children. One grab and pull and release from God and I was spinning in stereo with twins. No kids to 2 kids in 23 days. I don’t regret for a second my repeated requests for speed, but I confess a new respect for God’s ability to answer prayers and deliver unimaginable blessings. That’s something good to remember in times of darkness and uncertainty, when life looks scary.

However fast or slow your merry go round is spinning, God wants you to know that He is your “someone bigger”. He isn’t spinning and leaving. He’s in control of your ride. And far from being a playground policeman who wants to kill your fun and stop your adventure He wants you to throw your head back and watch the world whirl as He spins your merry-go-round with His divine purpose.

“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” – Psalm 147:5 

“I’ve come that they might have life and have it more abundantly” – Jesus (John 10:10)