Get Off Your Merry-Go-Round!

If you need a turnaround in some area of your life today, perhaps you can profit from the wisdom of NBA star Tracy McGrady when he was recovering from injuries and a shooting slump. Trying to explain his new outlook, he told the sports reporters, “My career was sputtering until I did a 360 and got headed in the right direction.”

I never was a math genius, but I know enough to realize that a 360-degree turnaround would be sending McGrady in exactly the same direction as he was headed before.

Many people make this same mistake. They think they’re making a turnaround, when actually they’re just spinning in circles. Plenty of motion, but not much progress. In the end, nothing has really changed. Yes, they turned things around 360 degrees, but what they needed was a 180-degree  course correction.

I’ve discovered that I’m not a big fan of things that go in circles. Even though I live in Charlotte—the heart of NASCAR country—I’ve never understood people’s fascination with cars that travel hundreds of miles at incredible speeds, only to end up several hours later in exactly the same spot as they began.

I’ve also become disenchanted with merry-go-rounds, electric train sets, hamster wheels, and treading water in a swimming pool. Isn’t it better to invest our time and energy into things where we can see PROGRESS instead of pointless repetition?

But I’ve known lots of people who never seem to get offer their merry-go-round or hamster wheel. If you run into them a decade from now, you can be certain they’ll be right where you left them. How sad.

One of the things I love about walking with God is that it’s a life of CHANGE and PROGRESS, rather than circles and stagnation. We’re called to leave Egypt and journey to the Promised Land—not taking the circular route that leads us back to Egypt or on a 40-year trek in the wilderness.

If TVs had been invented during the days of Moses, the circular journey of the Israelites could have been televised as some kind of reality show. Instead of NASCAR’s Daytona 500, it could have been called “The Israelite 40.”

Do you see why I hate circular journeys? The Israelites experienced this insanity long before Einstein or some other 20th century philosopher defined it as “Doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.”

Yet lately I’ve been reevaluating my position on this. The Lord eventually did  bring Joshua and the Israelites BACK to the place where they first boarded the merry-go-round instead of entering the Promised Land. The sight of this place must have brought back terrifying memories to Joshua, for God and the Israelites had to spend most of Joshua chapter 1 trying to alleviate his fears: Have I not commanded you?”  the Lord said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”  (Joshua 1:9).

How ironic. God had brought Joshua and the Israelites back full circle—360 degrees, as Tracy McGrady might say. He did this in order to heal them, restore them, and prepare them to move forward  into the place of their destiny.

The same “full circle” principle is found in John 21, when Peter and the other disciples tried to return to fishing after Jesus’ death. The Lord appeared to them and gave them a miracle catch of fish—reminiscent of the scene when He first called them to follow Him in Luke 5:1-11. The cure for their failure, discouragement, and bewilderment was to take them full circle and remind them of their original calling.

So perhaps Jesus wants to bring you back to your first love today or back to the kind of miraculous, joy-filled life you experienced when you first encountered Him. Just as He prescribed a 360-degree turnaround to the Ephesian Christians in Revelation 2:5, maybe He’s speaking a similar message to you: Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first.”

No, the goal certainly isn’t to go in endless circles. But sometimes you have to return back so you ultimately can move forward. You have to be healed from your fears and failures, so you can be launched into a whole new level of faith and fruitfulness.


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