by Marjorie George
It was supposed to be a great little endeavor that was well-suited to my circumstances. In my semi-retirement, I would take on some free-lance editing. Make a little extra money, work from home, and frolic about in the happy land of commas and semi-colons. Be still my heart.
A client was referred, I got in touch, and we established a working relationship. Then things got touchy, and we quarreled over syntax – no, “impact” is not a verb, I told her. Neither is “office.” We are not going to “office” anywhere. She fired me in favor of another editor. Well, she was just wrong.
A second client showed up – he wanted a book. We met, and I left with papers and folders and CDs – page upon page upon page of raw material. And it was good material – there was a book in there. I began the excavation.
It went well – for a while. I dug into it joyfully; we arranged and rearranged the material. An outline began to emerge. A theme revealed itself – the title of the book would have something to do with “pilgrimage.” I found appropriate Scripture for each chapter. My little free-lance job was turning into a ministry. Our meetings started with prayer, and we spent good time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We made a Christian connection. An ecumenical one at that.
Then other work began to crowd out this project. Weeks went by, and I did not touch it. I still felt the pull to work on it — to bring my considerable expertise to bear on the project. I still felt it was a good work to which God had called me and in which the Spirit was guiding me. But there were other projects, other work, other ministries that moved to the forefront in my life. I put off meeting with the client again and again.
When the client suggested, with great generosity and kindness of heart, that perhaps it was time for me to hand-off the project to another editor, my relief was mixed with chastisement of myself for not finishing this project. I had not completed the assignment. I had not seen it through to conclusion.
The client graciously pointed out that what I had done was bring the project to a point for someone else to pick it up. I had made sense of the chaos. I had, in fact, left it better off than I had found it. A bishop friend of mine tells me that is all we are required to do.
It’s track season now. I know this because on my drive to the office I pass a high school sports field and I see the kids out there running and jumping and throwing some big, heavy ball.
My favorite track event is the four-man relay. I like the thwack the baton makes as it is handed off one runner to another. A friend who ran track in high school tells me this is carefully orchestrated. The first runner, with the baton, starts at the starting block, with the other runners stationed at intervals around the track. As runner number one begins to approach runner number two, number two is already in motion, getting up to speed, as it were. Runner two has his hand behind his back, palm open, to receive the baton, but he never looks over his shoulder to see if it is coming. Then the exchange – thwack – and the two run alongside each other for a brief moment before number one fades back and number two sprints on with the baton to runner number three. The “exchange zone” goal for high school boys relay teams is 2.2 seconds. For high school girls it is 2.6 seconds.
Lent is the season of preparation for the hand-off. We are runner number two or three or four, running alongside, receiving the baton, handing it off to the next runner.
Jesus spent three years prepping his disciples for the hand-off. He knew that in his earthly ministry he would not see the project through to completion, and indeed it is not finished yet. At supper on the last night he washed the feet of his disciples. How good it must have felt to those dirty, weary feet to be washed with such love and tenderness. Thwack. When, from the cross, Jesus announced “It is finished,” I wonder if he was talking about the hand-off (John 13:1-15; John 19:30 ).
One of the things I love about The Episcopal Church is that every one of us can actually trace the receiving of the baton. Bishop Gary Lillibridge, our diocesan bishop, is number 995 in the American Succession of bishops. Some 994 bishops before him have been handed the baton and have passed it on to another in the act of Ordination – from bishop runner to bishop runner all the way back to Peter, who was commissioned by Christ himself. Every person Bishop Lillibridge has ever confirmed has received a part of that baton. Thwack.
Lent begins next Wednesday, March 5. We are preparing to receive the baton on Easter morning. Our training tools are Scripture reading, church attendance, spending time with Christ. The Diocese of West Texas has given us a dedicated, daily study written by the Rev. Drs. John Lewis and Jane Patterson called Following Jesus: Invitation to Discipleship, and you can find it here.
The baton is coming. Runners, take your mark.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org