As 2016 was ending, like many, I wanted to put as much of it behind me as possible. So, I surveyed my life and took inventory of what outstanding items needed my attention. I found unreturned emails and texts that needed attending, bills and debts that needed settling, and personal projects that required completion. News articles I had put aside to read but never did beckoned my call, books that were almost fully read that were abandoned for whatever reason garnered my attention, and an inbox that had been gathering dust looked to be emptied. With that thought in mind, I turned to finishing off projects and business that had been lying around. I tackled them all with one goal: finish them before the year is up. So, with some determination and hard work, I succeeded in tidying up unfinished business by the first ring of the new year. As a bonus, my proverbial crawling out from under the mountainous pile left me with enough satisfaction and optimism to head into a new year with renewed hope.
When the things in our lives stack up, we tend to tackle them with the thought that once we are done, we can finally rest. However, we all know that life does not rest, and what we finish will be replaced with more. And sometimes we tackle our piles in an effort to achieve or increase control in or lives, but we also know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Control of our lives is illusionary. So why bother to do any of it if the struggle is never-ending and the control never achievable?
In the final act of “Hamlet,” after trying to control his surroundings for the majority of the play, the titular character comes to the realization that he in fact has no control at all, and that issues will continue to plague him despite his best efforts. He concludes with the statement “the readiness is all,” meaning that his intentions should be more concerned with preparation for what comes next instead of a desire for total control, and some of that readiness is rooted in finishing what is at hand. He does not give up tackling the tasks in his life; he merely works towards completing as much as he can so that his life is prepared for what comes next.
By working towards completion, if not necessarily achieving it, we can prepare ourselves for what God has next for us. After Christ had completed His ministry in human form, He hung on the cross preparing Himself for God’s next step. “After he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19.29-30). Christ had completed all that He had to on earth, and His declaration indicated that He was now surrendering Himself to God’s will, ready for what comes next.
We tend to get bogged down easily with the number of tasks we take on in our lives, and too often we lose sight of the end and begin to unravel. We forget to finish, along with the reason for finishing, and instead just forge onward, leaving a trail of incompletion in our wake and opening us up for a lack of preparation for what comes next. We become stuck in neutral, and despite how much we step on the gas, we still don’t go anywhere. So, when something else comes our way, it just finds its way to the top of our inbox pile, as we aren’t ready for it. Then, opportunity and God’s plan passes us by. However, like Christ, when we work towards finishing what is at hand with an eye towards readiness for what comes next, God is then able to start a good work through us. This week, survey your life for what lies incomplete, as these incompletions may be holding up the riches God has in store for you. Then, set goals for finishing those items with a desire not for completion but for the readiness. The next big step in His plan for your life lies just around that corner. Amen.