Tingles of anxious anticipation are already starting to creep down my spine. Later this summer in Rio de Janeiro the world’s finest athletes will gather for the 2016 Summer Olympics. It is the only time I ever watch gymnastics, swimming, and track and field—all in the same three-week span! One of my favorite events to watch is the 4 x 100 relay race. Four athletes on one team, working together, sprinting until their lungs burn, striving for Olympic glory. The baton pass is key. You have to stick it in the next athlete’s hand perfectly on a dead sprint, trusting the next person will grasp it securely within the passing zone and continue the race. A perfect pass can help lead your team to victory. An errant pass can lead to that heartbreaking moment when you see the baton fall in slow motion, clinking dead on the track below.
It gets me thinking about the baton I created last fall that now lies on my dresser. On a men’s retreat we cut up some PVC pipe and duct-taped designs around it, signifying that we were indeed men passing the baton of faith on to the next generation. This week my church has asked us to tell the story of who passed the baton of faith to you. There are so many I could talk of here, but I would like to focus on one person who truly stuck that baton right in my hand. 2 Timothy 2: 2 states, “The things from which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” In my work at school, there was nobody who did this more effectively than my dear friend Lori.
It was a little over three years ago in January of 2013 that I felt called to begin a Bible study with my colleagues. Lori was one of the first to enter my room. She was a seasoned Christian mentor for me and soon became a true staple of our small group that met every Friday morning. Every time she spoke, I soaked in her perspective, her wisdom. When Lori spoke, people listened. Her words, calm and soothing to the soul, reflected a positive Christian perspective that helped me mold my new relationship with Christ for the better. She likewise epitomized the words in Ecclesiastes 3: 6b where Solomon advises, “There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak.” You see, there were times when I was on a different page than the group, and Lori always knew when to speak up respectfully.
We had been doing some thematic Bible study devotions, diving into scripture and themes that apply to the Christian teacher. It was good substance, but I was oblivious to the fact that it was soon burning the group out. I wanted to amp up our study even more! There were whispers around the group that we lacked prayer time near the end, but I wasn’t listening—that is until Lori spoke up. Her smile, not to mention her calming voice, was not confrontational. And guess what? When Lori spoke up, I listened. She requested that we lead the group more towards prayer and lifting up one another as opposed to studying the Bible together. Scoping the room, there were plenty of smiles and nods from others, which made me smile as well. I then knew what our group needed. Prayer! And our group has flourished with prayer ever since that day.
It was about a year ago that Lori came to group with a heavy heart. She was at that season of life that entertained the thought of retirement. We prayed for her. I selfishly wanted her to stay one more year, but in my heart I knew God wanted her to be a grandmother. A wife. A mother to her beautiful daughters. It was so bittersweet to see her go! As Solomon says, “There is a time to search and a time to quit searching” (Ecclesiastes 3: 6a). Lori was done searching. She knew where God wanted her. The same bold Christian woman who once prayed over an agnostic colleague for her leg to heal was moving on. (That colleague, by the way, claimed her leg felt better the following day and mysteriously continued to grow stronger.)
I haven’t heard from Lori since last summer. Life changes. People change. One thing I do know is that God is using her like He always does, and that baton of faith is now securely in my hand. Not dropped. Not passed to me outside the passing zone. Lori, along with many other respected Christian mentors, planted that baton in my hand where it stuck for good. She will forever be remembered for her caring heart, for hosting summer prayer fellowships at her house, and for encouraging others. Now that I have the baton, my race is not yet over, and I am running with endurance the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12: 1).
So, what about you? Who slapped the baton of faith in your hand? I would love to hear about it below. Let’s encourage one another with our own stories as Paul commands us to in 1 Thessalonians 5: 11. Who is your Lori? I would love to hear your reply below.
(Rend Collective Experiment’s “Build Your Kingdom” reminds me of the importance of planting God’s kingdom wherever God leads us. As we build God’s kingdom, we are indeed passing that baton on to the next generation. Listen to this uplifting song below!)