There is something freeing and exhilarating about finishing a long-term writing project, unlike term papers and essays during college. Completing papers did not give me much of a buzz because I often couldn’t choose my content or even my topic. Since then, I’ve been more free to write what I wanted.
I remember my most significant project was ghostwriting a book for an elderly lady who was crippled and blind. Her memory was phenomenal, and she knew exactly what she wanted to say, and where and when it took place. The problem was, she usually couldn’t tell whether her mini recorder was off or on, so there would be blanks in her dictations we’d eventually have to go over. That book took nearly five years, but the minute I handed her a bound copy of her story, it was like watching a girl receive a pony for her birthday. She kicked her feet and laughed so hard, with tears running out of her eyes. I still get teary when I think about it. It was worth all the time and bumpy spots we’d been through.
My latest project was helping a friend prepare a training manual for an organization she belongs to. This project helped me improve my typing speed and accuracy, as well as proofing skills with the aid of one of the software programs made expressly for that purpose. I also learned a lot about the organization that I hadn’t known. Who knows? I may end up joining it.
Of course, there’s the pleasure of finishing an essay, knitting a shawl, or cooking something new and having it turn out delicious. Each represents a completion, something to look back on, and always learning something new, even if it is something I have done before.
I remember being a teenager like so many of my peers, feeling like I knew it all, even when someone showed me my mistakes. Thank God I have grown up a lot since then, and I’m not nearly as smart as I used to think I was. I’ve gained wisdom over the years and learned from many of my mistakes, but there is always more to learn, and that’s probably the best part of growing old.
When Jesus was a little boy, his mother had to teach him many things. Most children eventually begin walking after many bumps and falls. Still, they learn the idea of walking from parents who hold their hands to keep them from falling. Parents teach their kids to eat using utensils, not just their hands. Reading to them teaches children the joy of reading for themselves and learning religious texts and practices as well as fairy tales, animal stories, and other kinds of literature. Maybe Mary and Joseph didn’t have “Goodnight, Little Star” or “Harry Potter” to read to Jesus at bedtime. Still, there were always stories to be told about how things came to be, traditions, and things like Psalms and prayers. They were probably every bit as proud of their son’s accomplishments as any of us are of our own achievements and those of our kids.
Mary probably wasn’t proud as she saw her son hanging on a cross like a common criminal. Her love for him didn’t change, but she had to think of what the neighbors would say back home. Would her sons, even those who followed Jesus, take pity on her and keep her safe and secure? It was a finish to a life she might not have understood entirely or wanted for her son, but he was still that little boy she had birthed, cuddled, fed, taught, and loved.
For Jesus, we are told his life would end in a particular place and way. He gave clues about meeting his end, but did he realize everything he would have to endure before the end came? For him, there wouldn’t be any exhilaration or pride at finishing his mission on earth. He came to earth and did what he was supposed to, and his reward was death on a cross.
Of course, we know Jesus recognized that his death would be short-lived (if you’ll pardon the pun) and that his final reward would be a reunion with God in heaven. His last miracle would convince millions of people that he was the Savior and that they could put their faith and trust in him and his messages. They are still celebrating that event two millennia later. Now that is what I would call a genuinely fantastic finish to a lifetime project.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.