Failure to finish

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Somali pirates terrorizing the west African coast. What does this have to do with finishing what we start? Just think about the last time you heard a lot about Somalia in the news. It was in the early 1990s. Somalia was engaged in a violent civil war that caused severe famine throughout the country. The United States sent troops to make sure there was a secure channel for humanitarian aid to reach the victims of the war. Operation Restore Hope was successful, and most of the U.S. troops were replaced by a United Nations peacekeeping force in May 1993. A month later, Somali militia attacked Pakistan Army troops in Mogadishu. At the close of the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, 18 American troops were dead, and more than 1,000 Somalis. In March 1995, the UN withdrew Operation United Shield, “having suffered significant casualties, and with the rule of government still not restored.” Wikipedia
In other words, nobody finished the job. Maybe because the expected outcome was never clearly stated. Is that one of the reasons we have outlaw bands of marauding pirates trolling the coast like sharks out for a kill?
Iraq is another example. The U.S. went into Iraq to deal with Saddam Hussein in 1990. Did we finish the job? Well, we left the man responsible for the invasion of Kuwait in power and had to go back and do the finish work, more than a decade later.
My husband is a contractor (and a pastor). On nearly every job I ask, “Are you almost done?” He frequently replies, “Almost, just the finish work left.” Invariably, the finish work, taking care of all the little details and making sure the job is done, takes as long or longer than the big stuff, like framing the structure. Finish work is not his favorite part of construction, because it seems to move so slowly, with so little tangible reward for the effort.
A friend of mine is also a contractor’s wife. Her husband built her a beautiful home. When I visited her after the home’s completion, I was surprised to see some of the interior doors were still missing doorknobs. There were exposed wires hanging from the ceiling in a bedroom because he hadn’t “gotten around” to hooking up the fixture, which was in a box on the floor. I laughed. Quietly.
In tennis and golf, it’s called “followthrough.” If you don’t master the followthrough on your swing, the ball will never end up where you expect it to. I can’t think of a single task we do in life that doesn’t involve some kind of finish work, or followthrough.
During the era of feathered hair, I spent at least 45 minutes a day coaxing my stick-straight hair into the coveted Farrah Fawcett style. When I rushed in for breakfast, my mother would ask me, “Did you brush the back of your head? It looks like a rat’s nest.” I only messed with the front of my hair, and left the rest. Poor followthough.
I love to paint my house. However, we have several pieces of furniture that are too heavy, or too much of a hassle, to move. So I simply paint around them. Six months later, when it’s time to rearrange again, I endure the giggles and groans when the big blank spot of the former room color is exposed and I have to get out the paint can again. Failure to finish.
Those are fairly minor (and funny) examples, but parenting, marriage, pastoring, and our jobs all have finish work.
I’m rewriting the final few chapters of my first completed manuscript. Putting those words on screen, having them critiqued, making the changes, etc., is a grueling process. I want to hurry up and move on to the next project! I’m tired of this work-in-progress and it’s not even done yet!
My teenagers are in the “finish work” phase. Daily, it seems, we’re tweaking some system or function, and sometimes gasping in horror when we realize we forgot an important detail – like failing to teach the new driver to check the oil.
Particularly in relationships, finish work and followthrough can be hard. If my child is dealing with an embarrassing problem, my flesh doesn’t want to go back to him a week later and ask him how he’s doing. If my husband agreed to help around the house and two weeks later has conveniently forgotten what “mopping” is, it’s easier to be mad and do it myself than it is to remind him of our previous discussion.
What’s the last thing you started that you haven’t finished? What did you set out to do, but haven’t followed through to completion? Before you jump headfirst into the latest new project, go back and finish up the old ones. You’ll feel better for it, even if it’s a little thing, like cleaning out a desk drawer, or sending a card to a friend instead of leaving it unstamped on your desk until next year’s birthday rolls around. Finish, followthrough, and you won’t have to worry so much about those old tyrants of strife and dissension rising up to torment your family, or suddenly finding financial pirates at your door because you neglected to finish balancing the checkbook.
Finish something today, or this week. Something you’ve been putting off, procrastinating, or avoiding. That uncomfortable conversation with a co-worker, the pile of paperwork building up on your desk, or the appointment for your annual physical you last made three years ago!
Jesus finished, and He’s our example. Take Philippians 4:13 to heart when it comes to finishing what is set before you, “I can do all things (even finish!) through Christ who strengthens me.”
Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

4 thoughts on “Failure to finish

  1. Sherrinda Ketchersid says:

    Yikes! This post really cut deep, for sometimes I am not a great finisher. I will say that I am better than my husband, but I am still prone to get tired of things and give up. I am nearing the end of my first manuscript and I am struggling with getting it done. Part of it is because I am learning so much as I go, that I know I have so many problemes with it. But I am trying to push through and just get it done and then go back and do the “finish work”. Thanks for the encouragment!

  2. Niki says:

    Keep up the good work! Slow and steady wins the race! Blessings, and thanks for the comment!

  3. Annie says:

    ugh! You need a disclaimer that reads “warning, bruised toes are likely after reading the following post”.

  4. Niki Turner says:

    : ) You’ll appreciate this: One time my best friend brought a box of Band-Aids to my ladies’ Bible study. She said it was so everyone could patch themselves back up after I was done. I told her to imagine how it feels to get it firsthand! Thanks for commenting!

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