I fell out of my family’s green Ford Maverick when I was about 4 years old. I remember it vividly. My dad was driving my sister and I to a Lawson’s convenience store and somehow my foot got wedged in the door handle.
As we were approaching an intersection…whoosh…plop. I fell out.
The incident left me no bodily scars, but thinking back on the accident has rekindled many memories of my numerous mishaps as a kid.
Once, while helping my dad pump gas, I pulled the nozzle out before releasing the trigger and managed to shower gasoline all over him, myself, our car, the pump, and many unsuspecting patrons. Why was I so ridiculously clumsy? Good question. Why was I pumping gas at such a young age? Better question.
My dad would sit me on his lap long before I could reach the peddles and let me “drive” the car. Why would he do that? Why would he put our lives at risk? Why would he let me pump gas, drive, or try anything new before I was fully ready? I think it’s because he knew something very profound. I needed the opportunity to try.
We all need opportunities to try. Was he more qualified to drive the car or pump gas? Yes. Was he more capable? Of course. So why allow me to try? Because ultimately he wanted to help me. Help me learn. Help me grow. Help me work through failure and/or handle success.
As a parent we want more for our children. We want them to see further, reach farther and soar higher than we ever dreamed.
This is, or should be, true of our disciples as well. If we are followers of Christ we should be in the business of making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Disciples who are not simply watching us, but stepping up and stepping out on their own with increasing levels of faith. Disciples who are making disciples, who are making disciples, who are making disciples.
Like a giant relay race, we run our part and pass the baton. On and on the baton has been passed throughout history. On and on it will continue to be passed until Christ’s return.
N. R. Narayana Murthy writes, “When you run a part of the relay and pass on the baton, there is no sense of unfinished business in your mind. There is just the sense of having done your part to the best of your ability. That is it. The hope is to pass on the baton to somebody who will run faster and run a better marathon.”
Nothing is more thrilling than watching the next runner run faster and further than you could ever run.
I am immensely aware of my weaknesses here in Madagascar. I stumble down the racetrack hoping not to trip over my laces or drop the baton. I recite Paul’s words at each step, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This past week we experienced a passing of the baton. One of the Masikoro village pastors was able to baptize nine of his disciples. To a more westernized person this may sound like a normal event, but to a Malagasy what happened was significant. Why? Because this pastor had never baptized before. In the Malagasy’s mind he did not have the authority to do such a thing. He was still learning the ropes of being a pastor.
Even as we approached the water the congregation’s expectation for the missionary or one of the other more “qualified” pastors to step up and take over was palpable. Instead the baton was passed. We released our grip on the baton and watched the next runner soar. It was glorious.
Letting go is not easy. Letting go is not always clean. It can be messy. It can be hard. But oh what we miss when we don’t let others try.
Jesus passed the baton to a few undignified, unqualified disciples. Paul handed the keys to Titus and Timothy of whom J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “was more prone to lean than to lead.” We continue to disciple Malagasy men and women in spite of their youth or lack of credentials. We continue to encourage them to try. We continue to let go.