Gretchen Rubin, a writer and studier of human nature, is famous for her knack for dividing people into categories. One of her taxonomies I’ve found especially insightful is that of “Finishers and Openers”: Finishers get satisfaction from completion (whether that’s utilizing the last drop of shampoo in the bottle, or marking a task as DONE), while Openers enjoy the pleasure of starting something new (like beginning a project or opening a fresh container).
When Gretchen first introduced me to this particular categorization, I knew without even taking the quiz that I was a Finisher. I may struggle with finding the motivation to take on a new project, but once I begin, I will always see it through to the end. I get a thrill from marking items off of my to-do list, or completing the final page of a book, or scraping the last dredges of yogurt from the cup.
For me, the dawn of each new day—with its docket of starts and beginnings—can feel daunting, but I sleep peacefully each night knowing that the day is complete. Where others dwell in the world of possibility and openings, I take much greater satisfaction from cozying up with reflections on the past and all that is finished.
There are advantages to my Finisher mindset: it fuels me with the grit and gumption to complete difficult tasks, and I rarely second guess my ability to see something through to the end. But being a Finisher has its drawbacks, too. I’ve been known to rush through a chore or book or activity, failing to embrace the process for the sake of checking an item off my to-do list. I race to the finish line of each day, not stopping to recalibrate or reflect on the people or values I may be trampling along the way.
My Finisher tendency is accompanied by carelessness, often resulting in messy outcomes that my inner perfectionist can not abide. For me, to be a Finisher is to spend quite a bit of time redoing, revisiting, and revising—and rethinking my prioritization of completion over a job well done.
In recent months, I’ve begun to see how aspects of being a Finisher are not just inconvenient or annoying, but can actually be sinful. Finishing is my way of achieving a semblance of agency within my life—understandable given the unpredictability in our current chaotic culture and in my own topsy-turvy household, but still a reflection of my own pride and my failure to place my trust in the Lord. When I focus on tasks over everything else, I grow impatient and anxious as I lay claim to work that isn’t necessarily mine to do.
My monthly verses in February and March both served as reminders to trust the Lord completely, relying on His guidance and provision. While I still have a lifetime of work cut out for me in the realm of relinquishing control, these verses have succeeded in raising my awareness of how little I trust God’s ability and desire to lead me through each day. This April, I am continuing the theme of trust-building with a passage from Proverbs 16 (which I’m memorizing, once again, in The Passion translation).
This wisdom from Solomon prompts me to slow down, to hold outcomes loosely, and to seek God’s leading before I even begin a task, let alone finish it. These verses are also a reminder to shift my perspective from my goal of getting things done to God’s goal of working in me and through me to accomplish His infinitely grander purposes.
Accomplishing tasks that I set out to do is not in itself a sin. We are created for work, and there is value (both spiritual and practical) in seeing things through to the end. But when I prioritize finishing, I bypass spiritual fruits of peace, patience, and goodness that come from taking time with my tasks. I also miss out on opportunities to commune with the Lord that come when I invite Him into the details of my day-to-day life.
I have benefitted from Sarah Young’s words on the topic of trusting God in the areas of planning and box-checking. Taking on the voice of Jesus, she writes, “You will not find My peace by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future.” Instead, “When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today’s agenda. If it isn’t, release it into My care and go on about today’s duties. When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in its time.”