To Finish and Finish Well

I was talking with my children about how the end of the school year is so hard for everyone. The spring weather calls to us, wanting us to come outside and enjoy the sunshine and beauty. The school work has been getting more difficult throughout the year, so that by the end of third quarter, we are just starting to break into some truly challenging material. The final exams also mean more intense study. Meanwhile, summer planning has made the excitement of a break from all of this intensity creep into our minds. It’s the perfect storm for poor school performance.

As I considered all of these things, I realized why I always had such an upper hand on my classmates in school. I pretty much conquered school without even thinking too hard about it. Yes, I was the correct learning style for the school room (visual and aural learner), and I had self-discipline and intelligence. Connect that with fundamental respect for adults in authority and personal responsibility, and I see how I was way ahead of the game.

However, as the kids and I talked through the challenges of year-end, I realized that I was able to move beyond my peers because I am a finisher. Although by personality and gifts, I am a very creative, not-too-organized idea-generator, somehow I also have the gift of perseverance. I go until the bitter end. Some would argue this is just a strong will. It is. But it is also a gift because I won’t give up or let obstacles slow me down. When most of my classmates sat down at the end of third quarter, I kicked into high gear. Some day, I’ll share the story of how I won the first and only 5K race in which I ever participated because of this exact principle.

The whole point of this discussion is to teach my children that sometimes in life you win just by showing up consistently and finishing the race. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect. In fact, oftentimes, it is not. But that old fable of the turtle and the hare is based on an immutable truth. Perseverance matters. And if you can even increase your performance at the very end, you will pass by many of your peers in any area of your life.

It is humbling to admit that I used to care about finishing well for the sake of college scholarships or job promotions or recognition or honors. Now, I care about it for my soul and my family’s eternal salvation. I want to be able to say what St. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8)

 

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