As much as the topic of “finishing well” is romanticized by both culture and the church. But, in reality, this is an extremely hard and sometimes painful thing to do.
The time of finishing is arguably the time of greatest exhaustion. It can be a time of regret or a time of nostalgia. Either way, it is often filled with grief when leaving something — or someone — in your past.
I once left a pastoral role where I had served for several years. Due to the nature of that role, I certainly did experience significant exhaustion due to many long hours and being out several nights of the week for years. However, though the physical recovery was simple to recover from, I am still feeling the effects of emotional and spiritual exhaustion that came from being in that role, something that I won’t unpack here.
Even though there were difficult challenges in leaving my previous role — especially in the last couple of months of my employment — it was also painful to leave due to so many positive relationships with students and adults. My last year there was my most effective in terms of discipleship, and I have maintained several relationships from my time there.
Leaving that position well was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I gave about 8 weeks notice to transition, which meant that I was able to further train the employees I oversaw and finish my discipleship relationship with my youth ministry students. During that transition time, I was also given the “cold shoulder” and sometimes slandered by some who I served alongside within the church.
Though my last few months were difficult and certainly made my emotional and spiritual exhaustion far worse, it was still worthwhile to leave well. It was not glamourous, but it was rewarding. It reminds me of the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7–8. Though the context of his writing reflects the end of a much longer and more painful life of ministry, they still could apply to finishing any ministry well:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
If you are in a season of ending or are being called to initiate a season of ending, may you find hope, comfort, and healing in Christ for your road ahead. Blessings to you!