“Finishing is better than starting,
Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLT
A completed goat shelter in a village waiting to receive goats to help provide income for orphans and vulnerable children
I recently read over the book of Ecclesiastes, a bittersweet book written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. The book weaves through many aspects of life, and serves as a final reflection towards the end of his days. The book tends to shifts periodically from being depressing on the one hand, and then empowering in the next. It often claims many things in life are “meaningless” or “chasing after the wind,” but then, Solomon will surprise you with an encouraging word here and there like:
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better to do than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for those are gifts from God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 NLT
And for some reason, when the encouraging parts are woven into the dark background of the depressing truths about the also meaningless parts of our lives, it paints a picture that is quite beautiful, and we can do nothing but stand in awe of God’s goodness in spite of it all. Solomon concludes the book with this,
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT
In other words, there are many ups and downs in life, but at the end of the day, our duty is simply to know God, by acknowledging His rightful place that causes us to fear/stand in awe, and to align our lives with the way He has taught us to live, through his Word and commandments. Simple enough, right? And yet I find myself learning again and again that this is how we must view life and the trials and blessings along the way, they are all here to teach us more about Who God is and how we can then rearrange our lives in light of that truth.
As I sit here today, I am writing from a place of finishing, as described in Ecclesiastes as being better than starting (7:8), and discovering what God has been doing in and through me now that my first job in Zambia has come to an end, and a new one is about to begin. I don’t know about you all, but I tend to rejoice in the beginning of things with all of the excitement and anticipation of starting something new, but the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds me that actually finishing something is better than starting, and it is good to reflect on a job that has been done before jumping the next latest and greatest thing that is about to begin.
These past 6 months, I have had the honor and privilege to work for an organization called, Expanded Church Response (ECR), which seeks to empower the Church to be apart of holistic development through our commitment to living in line with Christ’s Love, Character, and Wisdom. To be honest, my work here has been quite a rocky road, as this organization took me on as a newly married, recently graduated young woman who decided to move to Zambia to start a new life in a new culture. So much change was happening in me, and while I thought I could handle everything, I quickly found out that all of this was much more difficult than the achiever in me was willing to admit.
My conclusion this week during my exit interview, was what a humbling experience it all turned out to be. I started in March as a young American navigating through a job at a complex Zambian nonprofit. I learned that although I had all of these goals and dreams for my time working in Zambia, God knows much better what all of the people here need, and I am but a tool for Him to accomplish His purposes. Much of my experience was characterized by realizing what I couldn’t do in order to stand in awe of what He can do.
I met people who had been through more than I could ever imagine, and yet chose to lean on the strength of Jesus to make it through another day. I worked with men and women who welcomed me into their culture and patiently taught me how to eat, speak and act in ways that would be honoring to my new home while they in turn sought to understand my culture and the unique place that I was coming from. I saw people inspired to make a change for the betterment of those around them, and the boldness to step out and do it.
Laughing during a visit with an amazing group of women that empowers and assists survivors of Gender Based Violence
US nurse who visited and loved on ECR communities
Friends I will never forget that blessed my time beyond measure
I never expected that my first job here in Zambia would have started and ended so quickly, and yet in the short span of 6 months, God wove together a rich and beautiful story full of laughter and friendship, coupled with sorrow and pain. I have grown so much being apart of this community, and I am thankful God gave me an opportunity to dive into the messiness of development and relief work to better realize the perfection of His plan and the beauty of His people. As I move on to a different position with a new organization, I will never forget God’s faithfulness in this beautiful, yet trying season.
As we move about in this world of transition, where jobs come and go, buildings are built and broken down, and people die and are made new, may we be a people that seeks God in all of it. Let us rejoice in the goodness of God in our weakness, and His strength that accomplishes what we could never imagine. Where have you seen this in your life? What bittersweet experiences has God used to teach you to fear Him and obey His commandments?
May we be a people who take the time to acknowledge God’s goodness as we finish one task He has given us, and trust Him more fully as we eagerly approach the future.