God’s Word is full of great starts, but not many great finishes.
Hezekiah was one of Judah’s greatest kings. God used him mightily to defeat Sennacharib and the invading Assyrian army. Yet, when God revealed to him that his time to die had come, Hezekiah begged like a third grader for a cellphone that God would give him more life. God did, and Hezekiah squandered it, laying the groundwork for the later Babylonian invasion.
Saul looked every inch a king: a head taller than everyone else, strong, good looking. God led him early on to great victories. But, Saul was impetuous-his plans were always better than God’s. So, he jumped the gun on sacrifices at Gilgal, and the kingdom of Israel was taken from him and given to another, a man with God’s own heart.
It’s pretty easy to start well. The excitement of a new project, a new idea, trip, or school year brings with it excitement, the promise that this time, everything will be perfect. Since life is not a game of perfect, before too long the new project hits a snag; someone raises a powerful counterpoint to the new idea; the trip gets re-routed through Oklahoma City; or, the new teacher expects us to work as hard, or harder, than the old one. When the novelty wears off, so does the fun.
Towards the end, all of the easy stuff has been done. The low-hanging fruit has been picked. We’re tired, a little cranky, that new teacher or opportunity is now an old one, and there’s tremendous temptation to quit, to take it easy, to sit this one out or coast to the end.
One of the best things we can teach our children is to finish well. To help them discipline their hearts to put as much effort into finishing as into beginning. Whether it’s having them come back and re-load the dishwasher because they didn’t do it right the first time, making up their bed, even though they’ve already cleaned up their room, or going ahead and getting those last five math problems out of the way even though they aren’t due until Wednesday, there are all kinds of ways to help our kids see that finishing is as important, if not more so, than beginning.
Disciplining them to finish well is tough, because it requires us to be disciplined, as well. After all, isn’t it just easier to reload the dishwasher yourself than to get them to march back down here and do it? Or, to let them watch TV instead of doing the last five problems? Isn’t that the path of least resistance? The answer is “yes” -it’s always easier. And, almost never better.
I know it seems a stretch to equate loading the dishwasher, or working hard up to the end of school with being a good wife or husband, but I believe it’s scriptural that being disciplined in the big things begins with the small. Another name for “finishing well” is persevering, and James says that perseverance makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So while we’re enduring the eye rolls or whining as they come back up and finish their room or their homework, we can encourage ourselves that we are perfecting our kids, and that each act of finishing well brings them one step closer to marriages that last, faith that endures, and hearts that are relentlessly loyal to the ones they love.
Strong finishers make history. And, behind almost every one of them is a patiently persistent parent.