When I was boy in northern Michigan we sometimes saw houses that looked quite odd because they were really only basements. The thought was that people could begin their house with what they could afford, even if it was only the basement, cap that off with flat black roofing, and complete the first floor later when they had the money.

Trouble was, sometimes that wouldn’t happen, even with the best of intentions. And so one would see an odd home in the ground with only a stairway poking up above grade, usually pointing toward the driveway. It wouldn’t surprise me if this method of construction would no longer pass code in most localities.

I always hoped someone would eventually finish the house.

This causes me to wonder to what extent I’m a finished product, spiritually speaking. There’s a passage in Hebrews 12 that calls Jesus “the pioneer and finisher of our faith.” Hopefully, I continue to develop as a person and in my character, especially as I follow Jesus in my life, but it’s a comfort to me to know that in terms of being “finished,” Jesus is going to take on that project beyond my poor abilities. In this life he doesn’t call me to know everything, or to be strong in every situation, or to make all the right decisions, or to never make mistakes in life, even major ones. He calls me to faithfully follow. So I live by faith in the Savior who forgave me even though it was completely undeserved, simply because he loves me, --and I own the humility that fact produces in everyone who has been so loved, and so completely forgiven. But I will always be a work in progress.

It’s easier to be a work in progress when you know that failure is not catastrophic. Following God is serious. Sin is serious. But grace is real.

When I was in seventh grade I once made an illegal push-away motion with my hands as an offensive tackle and got called for illegal use of the hands. Unfortunately, during that play we had scored a touchdown that now was nullified. We never got into the end zone again on that drive. And we lost the game by less than seven points. And it was my fault.

At the time, that was pretty devastating. There was real hurt on the team. But my identity in Christ already then helped me to know that I was more than the sum of my actions, like some balance sheet of accomplishments and failures. I am a child of God, and as such forgiven by the One that truly matters.

More than that, I also know that the day will come when the person I was always intended to be will fully arrive, through the power of the one whom Scripture calls “the finisher of our faith.” He is both pioneer who initiates faith in us and calls us to follow his trail, and the one who brings all things to completion in order to welcome us as holy, complete, perfect and accepted saints of God –not because we are so great in ourselves, but because that’s who he makes us to be. It was in his design for us from the start, and he will finish the job.

The Rev. Greg Schlicker is the Pastor of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

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