It’s Not How You Start. It’s How You Finish

    I sat by her bed.

    Her hand swollen…full…unmoving.

    Feet that danced just a few weeks ago now stilled. Arms that lifted just a short time ago now limp. Words that spilled easily just a moment ago now halted. How could life seep away so quickly, right before my eyes?

    Mom was ready. But I wasn’t.

    On a July morning, ten years ago, my mom called to tell me she was going to the emergency room. She had abdominal pain and couldn’t stop throwing up. I had just been at her house four days before, and this was something new.

    “She has an ileus,” the doctor explained. “Part of her intestines have stopped working. But her heart isn’t strong enough to survive surgery. If her intestines don’t start working on their own, she will die.”

    Four weeks into the sitting and waiting, it looked like Mom was going to get to go Home. Not to her little brick house in the colonial neighborhood…the one with cedar shingles, cobblestone street, and white picket fence where she had lived for over 25 years, but her home in a celestial neighborhood with familiar faces, golden streets, and the presence of God. Mom was ready. She had been planning the party for quite sometime.

    I gently held her fluid-filled hand. Sky-blue eyes looked off into the distance. Her mind replaying bits and pieces of life.

    “Mom, whatcha thinking about?” I asked.

    “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” she whispered.

    “Who told you that?” I asked with a knowing smile.

    “You did,” she replied.

    “I love you, Mom.”

    “I love you more,” she countered.

    Mom had regrets. We all do…if we’re honest. But she finished well. She had made sure that her grandkids, extended family, and I knew we were loved. She had made preparations of her passing as easy as possible for me, the lone child responsible for all the details. She loved Jesus and was thrilled to get to see Him face-to-face.

    The last week of her life, I was having a bit of a crying spell. Mom had requested the doctors remove all the machines, all the tubes, all the medications. “Comfort care.” That’s what they called it.

    “Well Mom, it looks like you’re going to get to see Jesus before I do.”

    And in a quick wit that served her well to the end, she teased with a twinkle in her eye, “Are you jealous?”

    And to be honest…I was.

    We never know when our last day on this earth will be. But here’s what we do know—we have a choice right now, today, to finish well. Your new start to the finish could begin today. Regardless of your past mistakes and missteps, weakness and failures…regardless of how you started this race, you can decide to begin your finish well.

    Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV). We don’t get to choose when we will cross the finish line, but we do get to choose how we run the race today.

    Lord, I have made so many mistakes in my life. A trail of regrets lie behind. But  I’ve chosen to leave them behind and not carry them into my future. No matter how I started, I pray that You will give me the wisdom and the power to finish well by loving others and leaving all bitterness and regret behind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1NLT).

    What is one thing you need to strip off and leave behind in order to finish the race well? Leave a comment and let’s share.


    This story was taken from my book, When You Don’t Like Your Story: What if Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories. Even though you may have some chapters of your story you’d like to rip out, learn how to give those pages to God and allow Him to make them into something amazing. You don’t want to run the race carrying baggage of past wounds and mistakes on your back. Let’s throw off everything that slows us down and run the race well!

    Also includes a study guide in the back.

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