Life is often referred to as a race. In this culture I often hear it called the “rat race.” I assume that refers to the fast pace of living and working and trying to “get ahead” by outworking and outrunning the competition. (the competition being the other rats/people) I recently wrote about this “life race” in a post entitled, “the last leg”, in which I contemplated finishing this earthly race. At any rate, this race is filled with transitions, not the least of which is the handing off of the baton – the most vital transition in this race we run.
Today I realize that I need to add something to my “the last leg” post. Why? Because even though I am on the last leg of my race and will soon cross the finish line – that is the end of my race but it is not the end of the race. Why not? Because this race of the human race is a relay race and when I finish my leg of the race, the race continues on with new runners bearing the batons they received from the hands of previous runners. Each generation runs its leg of the race and then passes the baton on to the next generation. Some generations get better batons than others, I think. Which is to say, some generations are left a better legacy perhaps.
The runners must coexist for a time together in the same space in order to transfer the baton from the finishing runner to the one who will carry it forward into the future. In a track meet, this space is called the exchange zone or changeover box, and it is twenty meters long. In the grand scheme of things, this is only a short, shared space in which to complete the transfer or the handing off of the baton.
I wish my exchange zone could have been longer with those who passed the baton on to me. I did share this space for a good amount of time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and parents. But as it turns out, it wasn’t nearly long enough. I would have liked a longer lasting exchange zone. I wasn’t ready to be left alone with the baton, but here I am anyway. There are still many things I would like to ask my mom, many things I would like to talk over with her before she would fully leave the baton in my charge.
But time marches on and the exchange zone comes to an end. As a receiving runner, I leave the exchange zone and run on, baton in hand. When next I enter the exchange zone, I am no longer the receiving runner – I am now the runner handing off the baton to those sharing this brief space with me before I fully release my baton into their charge. Perhaps they will be more ready than I was to fully receive it and to run on alone. I can only hope they will guard it with all diligence as they run their race as receiving runners – runners who will all too soon transition into giving runners, passing on what was entrusted to them during their first brief time in the exchange zone.
When they enter the exchange zone again, it will be to put the baton into the hands of the next generation – a baton they have inherited, carried through trial and trouble, guarded zealously, nurtured, and grown – a baton now ready to be handed off to the next generation.
At this point, I should clarify something. I don’t run alone in the sense that there are others running this race of life simultaneously with me – a whole generation to be exact. But we each carry our own baton, and we are each responsible for transporting it safely through the race we are running, and for carrying it confidently into the exchange zone, where the receiving runners of the next generation are anxiously awaiting our arrival.
The baton is precious and as all runners know, must not be dropped or left behind. It must be transferred securely from one runner’s hand into the hand of the new runner, who will carry it forward, taking care to hand it off safely to the next runner when the time comes, who will also continue to carry the baton forward. We each have a part in this relay race that is life. Luke summed it up well when he said this –
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
“things handed down to us” – the baton entrusted to us to carry for a short while and then to hand down to the next generation.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
The baton of faith is being carried and handed off from one generation to the next generation – each one running their part in the relay race – preserving the baton, presenting it unchanged to the waiting runners who will continue to carry it forward. This has been going on for thousands of years. I read in Isaiah –
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ” (Isaiah 52:7)
Can you picture it? – the feet of faithful runners, carrying the baton containing the Good News with them wherever they go, until their race is run and they hand the baton of faith over to the next generation. In the race of life, the passing of the baton is even more crucial than in a relay race at a track meet. In a relay race, if the baton is dropped, the team is disqualified and they lose the race. In the race of life, if the baton is dropped, the message of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus, is not carried forward into the next generation, resulting in disqualification and death. We dare not drop the baton. Paul talks about this in his letter to the church at Corinth, saying –
“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; . . . No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
The baton we carry is the Good News, the message of God’s love, forgiveness and salvation unto eternal life. It is a message of peace, of joy, of healing and of hope. The world has always been and it is today, in desperate need of all these things. We dare not fail to pass the baton on to the waiting generation. When my race is finished, I want to be able to say along with the apostle Paul –
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
the running of this race, the keeping of the faith, the passing of the baton – we are each one charged with this sacred calling, therefore – “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
sincerely, Grace Day