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Finishing touches may not kill you

Finishing touches will kill you. Do you want the line to go up or down? the name to be this or that? is this darker or that? Should we label it or leave it alone? describe it in the caption or put it on the figure? And really, should this be positioned before or after, vertical or horizontal? It’s a veritable maze of decisions out there. And I’m only talking about the illustrations!

But I’ve come this far; I’ve got to finish. It might be tempting just to be done with it. Let good enough be enough and go on to other things. That would be the easy thing. Frankly, it would be the practical thing. But somehow it’s not the right thing. So each day I have to stare delay in the face and tell her (yes, her) “You have no power here.”

And then she gets angry. I know this because things start going wrong. Small things. I can see her throwing a temper tantrum. I can’t get hold of someone, can’t find something, can’t use, can’t open, can’t balance. Can’t is tricky, you know. It has sneaked the “no” out of cannot thinking no one will notice. But I have – in fact I just did, as I typed that – and so I am onto you, Ms. Delay. You who gleefully sprinkle can’ts around and convince me that finishing is much too hard.

I can.

I know this because God has already placed people around me who I’m meant to call upon down the finishing stretch. Some of them are tough. Some of them are demanding. Some of them speak sweetly but are rabbid about a deadline. Some just show up at my door, in my inbox or via text. There’s a whole daggone crowd gathering. So I think that must be the finish line just ahead.

In the meantime I am humming a tune that has popped into my head. The chorus goes,

“Oh I wonder what God was thinking
When he created you.
I wonder if he
Knew everything I would need
Because he made all my dreams come true.
When God made You
He must have been thinking about me.

(Here’s the rest: New Song – When God Made You Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

It’s a dream I have that my daughters would choose that song for the first dance at their weddings. (Don’t tell, but in my dreams I start singing that song, and then they take over and sing the verses to their new husbands.)

But really, can we believe that when God created, everything He put in place came from a heart that knew just what we would need and when we would need it and made it so? Already? I suspect the dress rehearsal has already taken place in the heart of God. We were there, walking it all through, and now we just have to remember the steps.

Oh my. There’s gonna be some DANCING on at that heavenly reception!

For now, move over Delay, I’ve got work to do.

If finishing is your objective, Godspeed is your pace

I’m out on a hot soccer field with a young man who wants to make his high school team in the spring. It is September and he (with his father) has engaged my services to help him in this pursuit. At our first meeting, I run him through a few drills. About mid-way, I have him jog, then sprint. We, that means he, does this several times. I watch as he slows, his face dripping in sweat as he completes the final sprint.

I congratulate him as he comes into the shade for some water. Suddenly, he looks at his dad and says, “I don’t feel so good.” He dismisses himself to be sick.

I am sick with him, not literally but figuratively. What have I done? I am not meant to harm but to help. Not to break down but to build up. I’m in the business of preventing injury! His Dad just shakes his head. “He’s so out of shape. This will be a good wake up call.”

I imagine this happens on training fields and race courses across the country and around the world. But not MY training field. That’s a place where people play and laugh and have fun and do a little exercise. Not toss their cookies!

Well, this kid means business, and he wants a chance to make that soccer team. He knows he needs to make some changes and train hard. He comes back for another session. Same field. It’s hot and humid. I don’t know what he’s done since last week. We, that means he, begin. He is breathing hard, sweating, shaking his head in disappointment. I am doing all these same things, only on the inside.

I immediately have a mountain of respect for the personal trainers I know who do this, day in and day out. Push people past what they think they can do in pursuit of the better they have in them. But how do I know how much is just enough and not too much?

I line up the cones. At the same distance as a week ago. Some halfway. Some all the way. “Do you want me to jog and then sprint?” he asks.

“I want you to run them in a way you can finish,” I tell him. Wow. Where have I heard those words before? Thank you St. Paul for your words to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:24) and to Timothy (2 Tim 4:7).

He nods his head and readies at the first cone. Now, the pace is up to him. Finishing is his goal. He is not performing for me. He is setting himself on course to complete the race. I can’t do this for him. I can set up the path and stand by him. “When you’re ready, go,” I tell him. He does.

Each a competitor in our own race.

Each a competitor in our own race.

It’s excruciating to watch. He struggles, but pushes on. Bends, breathes, grimaces. Stretches, walks, then jogs again. At the last few meters, he leans forward toward the finish. And he does. He is not sick. He is not elated. He’s done. He has accomplished today’s goal. He moves to the shade and gets water.

He doesn’t know what anguish this has caused in me. I wonder if God feels this way as he watches us struggle? As we suffer through hardship and pain, even that of our own doing? He could step in, but that would negate all our work. It would remove our goal and preclude our progress. He has chosen not to defeat us. What wise words he has given us for these moments. “Run in such a way that you might win” … “Fight the good fight”… “Finish the race”… “Keep the faith”…

It’s hard to keep running when we don’t see the finish line. Sometimes we need a personal trainer to help us discover that we have what the day’s challenge demands, enough to cross the finish line.

Taking it at Godspeed, rather than full steam ahead, is what I am showing this young man he can do for himself.

Doesn’t completing a project feel good?

  • Fill in the blank
  • Complete the sentence
  • Close the loop
  • Finish that song!

We humans have a need to finish what we started. Almost as if we’re designed that way. Why does it seem like we’re always spinning our wheels? On the go. No rest for the weary. We get chastised for doing too much, being too busy, moving too fast. How can we possibly rest?

Oswald Chambers (in My Utmost for His Highest) writes… “Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest – the rest of the completion of activity in our lives that is never aware of itself.”

Is that the rest God has in mind? His rest? The rest we feel when a project is accomplished, a job completed, a project is done, an item is checked off our to-do list?

Maybe that’s why breaking big projects into manageable chunks, just like cutting my chicken breast into bite size pieces, helps me out. I’m nourished as I consume each portion, and by its provision, I embark on the next. Each completion rests and restores me.

Don’t tell me to stop and rest. There is rest for me at this finish line. I’ll take a deep breath, give a big thanks and then…start again. Refreshed.

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