Finish Well

Finishing Well

A person taking stock in middle age is like an artist or composer looking at an unfinished work: but whereas the composer or the painter can erase some of their past efforts, we cannot. We are stuck with what we have lived through. The trick is to finish it with a sense of design and a flourish rather than to patch up the holes or merely to add new patches to it.

Harry S. Broudy writing in ‘Education for Leisure’

We realize that actually no one can write anything to share with you how to truly finish well. It is like writing about what heaven is truly like. This is because the people who truly finished well or gone to heaven are dead and ‘dead man tells no tale’. The few people who came back from death can only describe it as very glorious but really not enough to sketch out any pictures. Even then we can’t be sure of what they saw was not an election ‘campaign’ designed to get your vote (once voted, the real world is exposed). What we can do only is first to tell you there should be a goal or end-point. If we make it to the end-point, we have finished. Secondly, we can tell you what is the best way to travel to the end-point. If we travelled well, then we enhance our chance to get to the end-point. But at this end-point or goal-line, what is well or not well? Man (except those in self-denials who call themselves atheists) from eternity has grappled with the concept of heaven and hell or whatever name we coin it. Deep in our spirit we feel there must be reward or punishment waiting for us at the end. So is getting to the end-point itself sufficient?

So it seems there must be some trust elements that there will be justice at the end for those who travelled well to be rewarded or for those who didn’t to be penalized. If we accept this, then we can get back to focusing on travelling well. What then is the difference with what we wrote about ‘Living Well’ in this website vs. ‘Travelling Well’? The demarcation is in physical and spiritual and between transient and eternity. If we travel to a mountain resort by train, we cannot expect to reach a place outside the train system’s reach. Likewise, we can’t reach a mountain top by air where there is no runway for landing. For those of us who believe there is life after we leave this earth, the final destination is eternity with God, our Creator. The lives we live on earth are best described as a race, a journey or a voyage towards this final eternal country.

Using these analogies, we can narrow down to at least how to journey well. We have already written about journeying well in our present, physical life in our section ‘Wellness of Life’. Now we turn our focus to the spiritual life. The method we adopt for the journey is similar. The goal is now eternity or heaven or afterlife whatever you believe in. The wellness (or reward or prize) now depends on who is the judge or umpire for the race. Many spiritual luminaries who ‘finished well’ like Mother Teresa, Buddha or Jesus were able to teach and show us examples of how to journey well.

Mother Teresa who gave her life to care for the poor said “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.” Buddha teaches “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” Both Mother Teresa and Buddha lived an exemplary life of simplicity. They showed us how to travel light. There was a song named ‘Travelling light’ made popular by Cliff Richard which starts with ‘I got no bags of baggage to slow me down’. In our spiritual journey, seems like the best way to travel is to travel light. Apostle Paul, who is more action-oriented than Mother Teresa or Buddha, was physically martyred (notice how numerous martyrs through history finished gloriously). But there is no doubt he finished well spiritually. He see his life more as a race (maybe because he lived his 1st half of his life wrongly and trying to make up in his 2nd life). Paul wrote towards his last years from the Roman prison 2Ti 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The writer of the book of Hebrews taught Heb 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past, you can’t go on well in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

So what are the baggages or things that hinder our race of life or life’s journey? Regrets, unforgiveness, hatred, jealousy, mistakes, successes, greed, pride and prejudices etc. The general word used in the above teaching in Hebrews is ‘sin’. We have accumulated much baggage in our 1st half of life. The key is not to carry with us these burdens that ‘so easily entangles’, not to keep looking back at the past but focus on running towards the goal. There is a saying “Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.’

Leaving behind baggage only help us to be free and easy. We still have to run the race or sail the voyage. We learned the drill in our practice runs on earth. Now that we set out on our race, there are a couple of things we should prepare :

Set the goal.
Whatever spiritual goal we call it, Nirvana, Land of happiness, Heaven or Kingdom of God, we have to aspire to get there. Without a goal, the chances of going off course and not reaching our destination is 359 degrees versus 1 because this is expected to be a long, life-time journey. We have to ‘fix our eyes…’ so we don’t deviate.
Mark out a course.
Along the race or journey, we need a compass, map, or GPS device because many things along our journey of life will throw us off course. Muslims use the Koran as their compass to get to Heaven; Buddhists have Buddha’s teaching; Christians depend on their Bible to keep them along the ‘straight and narrow’. For the real experienced travelers who know they can be thrown off even with a compass or GPS, the best way is to have a guide who had travelled the path before and knows the destination.
Pace ourselves.
In a long-distanced race or extended journey, we have all experienced occasions where we run out of steam or resources before we are able to complete the race or journey. Our God given resources are time, energy and will. If we don’t pace or spread out the expenditures, there can be danger of not reaching our goals because this is the highest goal ever to achieve, higher even than Mt. Everest. Many have dropped off but more have stayed behind a comfortable zone and forgot to carry on. This is where having a guide or a sponsor or reserves comes in. It is good to have an encourager (even better to have Him running by your side) or fellow travellers to share or co-operate with you to overcome obstacles, unforeseen dangers and also to share the ecstasy and joy along the way.
Get going.
Above all the preparations, techniques, encouragements, we must run the race now and not wait for the next race. Each race has rules governing the race and specifications set by the judge. Don’t get disqualified at the start or trip in the middle.

The race or journey we just described is a ‘narrow lane’ where a big crowd would not be able to get in. We can have encouragers but essentially it is a personal journey. Our parents, our relatives or best friends cannot race the race for us. We should tell them where we are heading but it is up to us to run and Finish Well.