The Carnival Ladder

While at the State Fair midway, I watched a long line of eager teenagers wait their turn to climb an eighteen-foot rope ladder, strung between two poles at a 45-degree angle. Gigantic stuffed animals waited for anyone nimble enough to make it to the top. Each fairgoer boldly approached the rope ladder, laughing at the spectacular failures of previous contestants and bragging about his skill; expecting a quick trip up the ladder. Clambering onto the ropes, the teens deftly and quickly worked their way towards the top but, in each case, disaster befell them just before they reached their goal.

As I watched one spectacular fall after another, I noticed that the carnival barker would place one hand on the end of the ladder as the challengers climbed onto the ropes. About three fourths of the way to the top, the barker would remove his fingers and the rope would violently flip upside down, spilling the climbers onto the airbag below. No matter how skillful the climber, there was simply no hope of success. Success and failure was literally in the hand of the barker, and he did not intend to have any winners walk away with his gigantic prizes.

Christians often seek worldly success through their own efforts. Attempting to climb to the top, they try to balance family commitments, personal integrity and the demands of their work as they struggle along. One after another, they climb steadily up the ladder, ignoring the failure of all those around them as they gain cars, homes and fortune. Over the years, however, I have seen each suffer failure. Divorce, disease, depression and financial disaster take their toll. Moral failure and unwise decisions cause success to vanish, as if these men were grasping water in their hands.

Over time, Satan’s unseen hand takes hold of men’s lives through lies and deceit, drawing them into a fantasy that can never become reality. Just when men think that they have beaten the odds and found a shortcut to an abundant life, the Devil strikes. Patiently, he waits until they have traded God’s plan for a dream and then exposes the very sins that he has planted.

Satan smiles as he watches the defeated limp off the field: lonely, lost and bitter. He does not intend to have any winners walk away with the prize of life.

“He will cause me to walk upon my high places.”
Habakuk 3:19