Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Finished

I’m currently engaged in a building project, trying to cobble together a new home for myself on the altered landscape of my life. Almost every day, someone -- a friend, family member, or delivery driver, asks some version of the same question. “Are you finished?”

This isn’t a post about my suite, so I’ll spare you the details, but the short answer to the question is no. I paid for the basics and am completing the rest myself, which I knew would be a long process. I did expect the rough-in to be finished less than 6 months after the estimated completion date, and I didn’t expect the electrician’s work to fail multiple inspections, requiring a series of long waits for him to return. But I digress.

Finished. The word has been echoing in my head. No, my suite isn’t finished, but many other things are, or at least appear to be.

The married-to-Dan phase of my life is finished. Obviously, it ended the day he died, but I was surprised at the extent to which the moving process reawakened the grief. I left the last home I will have ever shared with him; a house that was full of memories which swirled around me and kept me hanging on to the ethereal threads of the relationship. There’s a stark finality to moving. This is new. The old is gone.

The reawakened grief of widowhood in turn reawakened grief for lost dreams. As years of illness followed one after the other, I gradually released the idea of returning to mission work full time, but I still clung to the hope of someday accompanying Dan on his yearly trips back to Peru. Will I ever minister overseas again?  Will I minister outside my own home at all?  Is that phase of my life finished?

After decades of illness and living a mostly home-bound life, it’s easy to wonder what my purpose is. It’s easy to feel worthless. The voices of the culture and in my own head whisper that I, myself, am simply finished.

It’s a lie. I remind myself of that. I’m still alive, so I’m not finished. God may call me home in 30 years or 30 minutes, but in this present moment, there’s a purpose to my life. My mind knows that. My heart tries to believe.

As I ponder these thoughts while I work on my suite, it occurs to me that “finish” has multiple meanings. I put a finish on the floor. I use finishing nails to apply trim.

When used in this way, the word does mean that one phase of a project has been completed. It’s completed, though, so that the item can fulfill its intended purpose. It’s a completion that marks a beginning.

Among the tangled jumble of thoughts that the word “finish” prompts, three simple truths float to the surface.

1.  Earthly experiences will eventually end. Joyful things end, but painful things also run their course. Sometimes they run their course here on earth, and sometimes our relief will arrive in the age to come. God says in Revelation 21 that in the day when God’s home will be among his people, death, sorrow, crying, and pain will all disappear forever.

2.   Some things have no end. God has no end and our relationship with him surpasses time. Among the things that the Bible tells us last forever are God’s presence with us (Hebrews 13:5), his plans and purposes (Psalm 33:11), and his love (Psalm 136:1). 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that faith, hope, and love will endure when other things, which seem important now, fade away.

3.  Painful experiences, which are often related to unwelcome endings, can make us feel finished, used up, and discarded. Maybe, though, they are part of the process of putting a “finish” on us which can beautify us and make us more useful for service. An ending can help equip us for a new beginning.

God, please give us your peace as we navigate painful endings and accept human limitations. Help us to remember the difference between things that are temporal and things that are eternal and to focus our time and energy on the things that will endure. Use us in whatever way you choose, and apply whatever “finish” you need to apply to better equip us for the tasks you've prepared for us. Help us to be strong, so that one day, we can say, as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”


7 comments:

Ms.Teree said...

Thoughtful...

Zona

kp3 said...

So well out Martha! Thank you for sharing this. I have the same feelings of at times feeling useless but the Lord always shows me things I can't do. The biggest has been prayer!! Praying for you!

Martha McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the kind words and the prayers. I, too, take comfort in the fact that prayer is vital and powerful and something I can still do.

Flora Preston said...

Hi Martha,

You don't know me, but I subscribed to "Sharing Air" about 2 years ago. I identify with much of your writings and deeply appreciate them. Ever since I was a tiny child, I wanted to be a missionary or to serve the Lord in some capacity. I never made it to another country (I'm in Canada), but I was very active doing outreach work, teaching children and mentoring other women in their Christian walk.

Then I became disabled with Chemical Injury - and life drastically changed. I was devastated. I thought I had disobeyed the Lord in some way, and that God had set me aside and no longer wanted to use me. I thought I have been discarded as a vessel not fit for the Master's use. As I poured out my heart to God in prayer, He comforted me with these verses:

Isaiah 41:9b-10 And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

And John 11:4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

For almost 30 years, I have walked a tight rope between life and death. Psalms 116 has become my testimony, because so far, the Lord has always delivered me from death. I have a deep sense that the Lord still has work for me to do, and that my work for Him is not "Finished". I would really like to connect with you. If you are interested, you can contact me through my web site: www.hrni.ca

May the Lord richly bless your labour of love,

Flora Preston

Martha McLaughlin said...

Thanks for sharing, Flora. Those are wonderful verses. I look forward to exploring your website and connecting with you.

glenda funk said...

Martha, have you considered writing a memoir? You probably know that the children's book industry is growing and that nonfiction picture books are very popular. I envision either a children's book or a YA book featuring a character w/ MCS.

I don't know of such a book. And writing is a solitary use of time, as you know.

Anyway, I'm glad to see a blog post from you. I hope your home is finished soon and wish you peace and send you love.

Martha McLaughlin said...

Thanks,Glenda. I do have a lot of potental book projects rattling around in my head, but they're going to have to wait until the house projects get done, or at least get done enough that I can have my final inspection and get my Certificate of Occupancy. Regarding a children's book with a character with MCS, I did know of a series, written by a young woman named Ashton (or maybe Afton.. My memory is truly awful). Unfortunately, at the moment, I can't remember either the names of the books or Ashton's last name. I think the books were self-published, and, unfortunately, Ashton passsed away, so I doubt the books are very easy to come by now.