At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, March 25, 2013

Finishing Well, Wherever You Are

Ah, the life of a teacher. Especially when the third quarter of the school year ends right at spring break and you feel like you've got enough grading to keep you busy until the Cubs finally win another World Series (depressing thought, indeed). Aside from all the administrative details of being a teacher (the grades, the paperwork, the evaluating), I really do enjoy this time of the year, the turn into the homestretch of spring semester.

Not that it looks like spring outside, given that God saw fit to dump 14 inches of snow here outside my suburban St. Louis home. That much snow is great until you have to take your ADHD dog out so she can use the bathroom. But that's another story.

Back to the home stretch. I'm especially excited because in my Ethics classes, we're tackling some heavy issues that have students really engaged. The seventh commandment (sixth for you Lutherans) on adultery has given rise to great talks on marriage, dating, and other matters. We'll be watching Philadelphia in class next week and discussing how to compassionately deal with people whose views and mores might conflict with your own. Students will be working on some collages to depict their views on chosen ethical issues. To me, it's clearly the most energetic time of the year.

There's a distinction, though, between having loads of energy and having focused energy. As we go down the final weeks of school, there's lots to do. Despite what some say, we do have time to get everything done (especially when you consider how much time people spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, games, etc.). The issue is "Are you going to use the time you have wisely?" Even more pointedly, "No matter what your performance so far, can you finish well?"

A good bit of the New Testament is taken up with specific charges to endure faithfully to the end. People in the biblical tradition could certainly look back on others who fizzled out toward the finish line, such as King Solomon--whose 700 wives flipped his passion from God to God-knows-what. No matter how far along the line you are--in life, on the job, in the school year--there remains the very real chance you could let your foot off the gas toward the end. And people can remember a finish more than they can a start.

All the more reason to remember that faithful living goes all the way to the finish line, wherever that finish line may be. In early 1994, I received a letter from my father when I was at seminary. There were many details in the letter itself, but Dad eventually turned his words to the needs of my grandmother (his mother-in-law), who was facing her final days and struggling with congestive heart failure. Now, you need to understand something about my Grandma Herron: The lady knew just about as much tragedy in life as one can imagine. During her first marriage, she lost (1) the youngest of her two sons at an early age and then (2) lost her husband when a mule kicked his in the stomach and the internal bleeding was too much. She remarried to my Granddad Herron, gaining two more children (my Uncle Bob and my mother), when in 1953 she lost her older boy from the first marriage (power lines fell on his pickup truck). Then in 1991, she lost Granddad to a heart attack.

During all these years, I'd never known her to complain or bear a grudge against the Almighty. She kept moving forward. Maybe it was her natural constitution; maybe that's the way people dealt with things in that era. Who knows. But I remember Dad's words on paper: "As the Lord brings her to mind, remember to pray for Grandma. It is important that she finish well." Dad was taking no chances. It was important that Grandma continue to show consistency and faithful living right to the end.

Perhaps you have a major project at work; perhaps you're a student and major assessments and exams are coming; maybe you are in the latter years of life. Wherever you are, the foot of faithfulness must stay pressed on the gas pedal of action. In short-term efforts or long-term activity, people will remember whether or not you finished well.

No comments: