First Sunday of Advent // Text: Mark 13:24-37
I had a mentor once who shared with me a secret he carried around in his pocket. For years, he had been a professor in a relatively small seminary. Late in his career, though, he left the classroom to be an administrator in a large teaching hospital. In one of our conversations, he described the transition as one of the darkest times in his life. While as a professor there were lectures to prepare, exams to grade, and paperwork to be done to submit grades these didn’t compare to the amount of paperwork he was buried under as a program administrator in a large for-profit hospital in a very large metropolitan city. And on top of all the administrative work the relationships he encountered with his colleagues at the hospital were not as fulfilling as those of his seminary colleagues. After several years in his new job, he became depressed and found himself struggling to find any joy in what he was doing. As he recalled this experience to me he said, “I knew I had to find a way to deal with the struggle I was in.” I asked, “What did you do?” And that’s when he told me the secret that he had carried around in his pocket. He told me that one night he sat down and wrote his resignation letter. The next morning when he dressed for work, he said he put the letter in his jacket pocket. And for the next two years he carried his resignation letter in his pocket every single day ready to submit it when the time was right. And then one day, two years after writing it, he handed it to his supervisor. For two years, he was living in a state of readiness.
This story made me think about a time in my own life when I lived in a state of readiness. I was young, the age of the west balcony dwellers. As a youth, I ate, slept, and lived to play basketball. I started playing on a team in sixth grade. And from the time I was about 12 until I graduated from high school I attended basketball camp at Gardner-Webb College every summer. In junior high, I tried out and made my school basketball team. However, I saw very little playing time in those early years. It wasn’t until about eighth grade that I actually got any game time. Throughout my ninth and tenth grades years, as my skills improved, I began seeing more playing time. Back then I was little, but I worked day and night on my quickness and ball handling skills and all the hard work eventually paid off. By tenth grade, I was the first sub in, holding the record for the most assists and steals. But I remember those game days sitting on the bench waiting to get the signal from Coach Fisher to take my place on the court. In those moments, never did I sit all the way back. I was on the edge of the bench with one foot ready to head toward the score table to check in at the slightest nod from the coach. Actually, there were times when I thought I got the nod only to be sent back to my seat. Nevertheless, at each game I lived in a state of readiness. Fully awake, ready to respond when called upon.