Posts Tagged ‘finished



The voice of my sweet wife: “Are you finished in there yet, honey?”

ME: “Almost!”

Sweet wife: “OK. Just let me know. We need to leave in five minutes!”

ME (as we walk into whatever-occasion-it-was, 10 minutes after the festivities began): “Sorry we’re late. I had to finish.” 

I have a thing about finishing. Call it a personality quirk. Call it an endearing quality. Or you can choose to call it what my sweet wife Joan calls it: downright annoying.

I’ll admit; if I start a task, I like to finish it. “Half done is undone,” as my dad used to say. I love to see a long “To Do” list in front of me accruing check mark after check mark beside each item.

This completion drive of mine is probably why I keep shoveling food into my face long after I am comfortably full. I’m all, “Hey… if there is still food on the plate, it isn’t FINISHED, is it!”

That quality is probably one reason I like to blog so much. It is a project that I can start… and then finish. 

On the surface, this sounds like a wonderfully positive quality, doesn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t like a “finisher”?

Recently, however, I have discovered the “shadow side” (as my Jungian friends call it) of this characteristic…

… and that is, the inability to walk away.

Sometimes I have trouble going to sleep at night, even when I am physically bone tired. It is probably because I lie in bed making mental lists of all of the tasks l didn’t finish that day. 

Not to get too psychological about it, but I am reasonably sure the little “remember to clean your plate” voice inside my head has a lot to do with why I have struggled so much with retirement so far. Anyone who has been a pastor will tell you the same thing: the job is never done. There are always more sermons to be preached. There are always more hands to be held. There is always more spiritual growing to do. There are always more hearts to be softened. There are always more souls to be energized.

And yes… there are ALWAYS more meetings to attend. There is never a clean “breaking point” at which to just turn and walk away… although I know a lot of people who have done exactly that.

There is something to be said for sticking with a job and seeing it faithfully through to completion. But there is also something to be said – maybe even something more important –for being able to be at peace with laying a task down, turning your back, and walking serenely away. 

As he hung on the cross in agony, Jesus was able to muster one last timeless phrase. He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30, NRSV) Some scholars contend that in addition to his mortal life, Jesus was also referring to the earthly mission he came to fulfill. The door to forgiveness and eternal life was now open. Nothing further was called for.

“Father God, the job you sent me to do is DONE. I’m ready to come home.” And even though we can look around today, more than twenty centuries later, and see millions of people who refuse his gift, Jesus knew that he had finished the work he came to do.

Perhaps there is a difference between the concepts of FINISHED and COMPLETED. Is it possible to say that my assigned role is finished, and yet still say that the overall task is not yet completed? As in, “Joe the electrician FINISHED all the wiring, but the house is not yet COMPLETED”?


Perhaps the lesson I am meant to learn here is that outcomes do not ultimately depend on me (or you). 

We are each given our tasks. We carry them out faithfully and to the best of our ability…

… and then we walk away, trusting that, as Paul wrote to the Philippians one day, “… the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, NRSV). 

Gosh, I sure hope so!

Abundant blessings;

(OK. Now I’m finished).


Graduation Day

Olivia graduatingAh, graduation.

I remember it… vaguely.

But as luck and family circumstance would have it, I had a chance to relive that magic moment a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I were privileged to travel to Corvallis, Oregon to see my niece, Olivia, graduate from Oregon State University.


It reminded me of how awesome it felt to be able to look at that long list of “To Do’s” and put the word DONE beside them.

Final papers? DONE!

Final exams? DONE!

Final classes? DONE!

Final projects? DONE!

Final cleaning and walk-through of your off-campus apartment? DONE!

Final tearful gathering with college friends? DONE!

Those first few days after walking onstage to receive one’s hallowed sheepskin is a good time to breathe deeply and bask in the warm afterglow of accomplishment.

And so, in that magic moment with her mom, and dad, and sister, I didn’t have the heart to burst Olivia’s bubble and tell her about the NEXT project waiting for her around the corner… the one called “GETTING LIFE DONE.”

It would have seriously rained on her parade to tell her just how slippery and elusive this project will be. I mean, I’ve been working on it for 67 ½ years now, and am just beginning to feel like I understand the “deliverables.”

I mean, what kind of sadistic uncle would show up and tell the new graduate about all the funky twists and turns, the outrages, the injustices, the dense fog, or the surprising GRACE she will bump into on her way to completing this next assignment?

Without a doubt, this is going to be the most challenging project she has ever faced. Fortunately for her though, there is help.

For starters, Olivia has a couple of wise, loving parents to turn to. I know they will devote every ounce of their energy and imagination to helping her navigate the path ahead.

And like any good dad, I know that if my brother doesn’t know the answer to her question right away, he’ll just make something up.

It’s what guys do.

There is also the extended family of goofballs, clowns, and scalawags to provide comic relief, if not actual assistance.

Olivia also has a wise-beyond-her-years younger sister who loves her fiercely she can lean on anytime she needs to.

And because she has actively built a strong network of friends over the years, Olivia will have all of those folks behind her, too… ready to step up and do whatever is needed, whenever it is needed.

I don’t think anyone would argue that getting life done is truly one of the most challenging assignments any of us will ever face. Having family and friends to mentor us along the way is incredibly helpful.

But I hope none of us who needs it ever hesitates to reach out our hand for the biggest, most capable, most dependable, and wisest resource around; Jesus.

True, his original words, recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, were NOT addressed to a 21stcentury, tech, and social-media saturated world. But when he looked out at his audience of first-century peasants and said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” I can’t help but imagine he saw you and me there in the crowd, too.

So congratulations on your amazing achievement, Olivia. Graduating from college is a HUGE accomplishment for which you and your mom and dad should be enormously proud.

Blessings to you as you face the road ahead.

Please know that you have all kinds of help available when and if you need it…


… including a zany uncle and a savior.

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