Thursday, 05 March 2015 00:42

Dropping Batons

Written by  Sam Whatley
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I know very little about Track and Field events, but occasionally a story from the Olympics catches my attention. When I heard about the American baton drops in the 4x100 meter relay races in 2008 in Beijing, I was intrigued, but not by the mishap itself.

In the men’s semi-final relay the Americans seemed certain to go on to the finals, if they went around the track at their usual pace, stayed in their lane and passed off the baton correctly. On the third and final handoff of the baton, one of the Americans dropped it. The receiver was quoted in a sports broadcast saying, “It was probably my fault. Some people say that when it hits the hand, you should have it. I’m a veteran. I’ve run all kinds of relays. I’ve never dropped a baton in my life. … I can’t believe it.”


But then his teammate said, “I take the blame for this.” And his coach added, “You can put it right on my shoulders.” All three were willing to accept responsibility for the blunder. Their honest humility was striking in the face of worldwide public humiliation.


About 30 minutes later the women’s 4x100 relay started. Again the American team seemed certain to advance to the finals. Once more in Lane 2, on the third and final handoff, the unbelievable happened. In the middle of the handoff the baton bounced to the ground.


However, the attitude of this team was different. The receiver said, “My hand was there. The stick was there. What I’m telling people is that the stick had a mind of its own. It’s not my fault; it’s not her fault; it’s not either of our faults.”


Pardon the leap, but this reminds me of a story Jesus told about two men in a temple in Luke 18:9-14. In that parable the Pharisee entered the temple with no sense of his own guilt, but the tax collector prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Christ reminds us that the tax collector “…went home justified.” Not because he became perfect, but because he asked for forgiveness and received it. But before he could receive anything, he had to accept responsibility for his choices in life.


As long as we think the baton is at fault, there is nothing we can change. That was the problem with the Pharisee who stood in the temple and boasted, “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” He was thankful that he was not like other men. His pride blinded him to his sin.


When things go wrong, are we not tempted to overlook our part in the train wreck? It’s far easier to blame others or to declare that no one is at fault.


Some years ago our society invented something called “ no fault divorce.” Rather than have folks admit their mistakes, we chose to sweep chunks of dirt under the rug and pretend it was all unavoidable. The baton had a mind of it’s own.


Our schools have “socially promoted” children from one grade to another, whether Johnny could read or not. We didn’t want teachers or students to feel that they had failed. But the truth is we do fail.


We all drop the baton. We make mistakes that distort our lives and the lives of those we love. Many of us fail in teaching our children to love and serve the Lord with their time, talents, and resources. Rearing children looks so easy. All we have to do is get them grown. But without Christ in their lives, they are running toward the finish line with no baton.


The men in the relay race were quick to accept the blame and learn the lessons needed to avoid this tragedy in the future. Both American relay teams did an outstanding job in London in 2012. But when they won, they did not give credit to the baton.


After all, it’s just a stick.




Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 00:45
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