Recently, I was at my favorite amusement park. It’s my favorite because admission is free. Not only that, but the ride tickets are the same every year, so you can save the unused ones from past years and use them next time you go. Even better than that, last time I tried the shooting gallery, I was the only one there, and I won! So it was a shallow victory—at least it was a victory.
The least amusing thing about the park for me was the merry-go-round (or carousel for the more mature among us). It’s a marvelous old fashioned carousel, with handsome carved animals, a nostalgic organ, and, best of all, a brass ring dispenser!
As I waited on line to hop onto the nearest outside horse, I thought about how I would reach out and grab that brass ring. When the ride stopped, I put my feet into action—only to be thwarted by a selfish, inconsiderate little girl, who obviously cared more for the thrill of the ride than an old(er) man’s dream of grabbing the brass ring! How dare she! Not only would I not get the brass ring—I wouldn’t even have a chance at snagging it! How unfair!
Have you ever had that feeling in life—the feeling of always missing the brass ring? Speaking of rings, I’ve often wondered how Pete Best, the Beatles’ original drummer, felt when Ringo and the boys became superstars. Talk about missing the brass ring! There are stories galore about people who missed one opportunity or another to become rich, famous, powerful, happy, or whatever their particular brass ring was. Many of us can identify with John Greenleaf Whittier’s famous quotation, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”
Regrets can dog us for weeks, months or years. If only we had finished school, stayed in that city, gone to another school, moved to another city, taken that job, quit that job, not jumped in front of that bus . . . on and on and on. “If only”s are words of regret from people whose arms were too short to reach that brass ring. Or maybe they were just short-sighted.
Sadder still are those who feel that they never had the chance to even get on the outside horse on the carousel of life. Someone else got on it before them, ruining their chance to grab the brass ring. It’s nice to have someone else to blame.
The truth is, possessing the brass ring does not guarantee, to quote a popular book, “your best life now.” A brass ring is not a talisman to ward off evil, sickness or death. It can make your life happier in some ways, but it cannot make it wholly satisfying. And it cannot make it last forever.
A brass ring, be it an education, dream job, medals or arm candy, is merely a decoration. Even a gold ring does not a man or woman of character make. Listen to King Solomon, who had brass and silver and gold rings galore: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion” (Proverbs 11:22, NKJV). Even the costliest of jewels does not hide the real character of a woman or a man. It is a waste to try to decorate a dead Christmas tree or paint the face of a Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30–37).
If we have missed out on opportunities that the Lord has placed before us, that is no one’s fault but ours. If someone jumped on that wooden horse ahead of us, it may be because God, in His infinite wisdom, did not want you to have what you thought was a brass ring. He may have had a gold ring for you instead.
God’s Word admonishes, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Instead of living a life of regret over lost opportunities, we should appreciate what we have. Instead of wondering if the “brass” is greener on the other side of the fence, let’s polish the ring we’ve been given. Learning to be content will not hide your true character; it will improve both your character and your life.
I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Randy Alcorn titled Heaven. It’s a simple title encompassing a complex, eternal theme. There is some speculation involved, but it is essentially a biblically accurate view of a place that is—although rarely considered—grossly misunderstood. In that place (which becomes the new heavens and earth), not only are all the rings brass, but the gates are pearls and the streets are gold. What won’t be there is even better: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4, KJV).
So, if it seems that you’ve missed a brass ring or two in life, have no regrets. In the long run, God will either give them to you in His time, or show you that what He gave you was better. For now, just enjoy the ride!
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