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Rev. Glenn McDonald Daily Reflection: It's How You Finish

It’s How You Finish

It’s not how you start.

It’s how you finish.

What you see poised on a single human finger in the image beleow is a pinecone. But it’s not just any pinecone. That’s the primary reproductive apparatus for the California redwood, the tallest living thing on the planet.

Every one of the cone’s woody “scales” is capable of producing a single seed, each of which is about the size of a seed from the interior of a ripe tomato.

A mature redwood can produce as many as 100,000 seeds a year. But only a few will be fortunate enough to experience the right circumstances to germinate. That typically includes exposure to fire. Redwoods, like their cousins the sequoias, are “pyrophytes” – trees that not only survive periodic forest fires, but have cones that open fully only when in the presence of searing heat.

Growth is slow. But once a redwood begins its skyward ascent, the resulting tree is on its way to being described with words like “immense,” “humbling,” and “breathtaking.”

Redwoods have exceeded 365 feet in height and measured 22 feet across at the base. They routinely reach the ripe old age of 600, and some of the trees currently standing in California’s coastal groves were alive when Jesus delivered the Sermon the Mount.

Redwoods grow from something the size of a tomato seed to a living organism as tall as a 35-story skyscraper.

It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.

Followers of Jesus would be wise to take the California redwood to heart. As Jesus points out in his parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), big things have small beginnings. That’s simply the nature of life with God. In Galatians 6:9, the apostle Paul reminds us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

But it’s so easy to want to give up.

Doing what is good and right and redemptive is not always exhilarating. It’s just as likely to be exhausting. And the work becomes even harder if we begin to doubt that it’s making any difference, either now or in the long run.

But the grandest thing in the universe – people choosing to live as if God’s reign matters more than anything else – almost always starts with little steps, little decisions, and little acts of kindness which others may not even notice.

Metaphorical forest fires may rage through our personal or corporate lives. It may seem as if our plans have been incinerated. But the seeds of our true calling from God may in fact only be able to germinate from the ashes of what we thought we’d be doing.

“Don’t become weary,” says Paul. “Hang in there until God says it’s harvest time.”

Don Young, a church leader in Kansas, recalls the time that he and his wife sat down with their daughter, who was just old enough to understand the value of money. They explained the dynamic of saving – that when her piggybank was full, she could take her money out and deposit it in a bank, where it might draw interest. She seemed to understand and couldn’t wait to open a savings account of her very own.

Together they drove to the bank in their small town. The president of the bank himself waited on Young’s daughter.

She handed over her small savings, and he gave her a receipt and thanked her for her business. Then she stood there as if she were waiting for something. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” the bank president asked. “Yes,” she answered. “I want my interest!”

We all want our interest. And we want it now.

But redwoods need time to grow.

You may feel as if you’re stuck in life’s starting blocks. But don’t grow weary in doing what’s right. And don’t give up.

It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.

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