Finishing Well

       Do you ever wonder about finishing well? It’s been on my mind lately, which might explain why I screeched to a halt last Friday while reading this verse from my Daily Bible: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. (Psalm 90:12, NIV)

       This is actually one of my favorite verses. I’ve spent time numbering the days of my life as a fun exercise, but my list only accounts for days in the past. What about days yet to come?

       Most of my life I’ve accumulated stuff, career, and attention; now I want to spend the rest of my years deaccumulating.

       We recently participated in a multi-family garage sale where we deaccumulated a significant pile of stuff. We sold furniture, backpacking gear I once thought was important but now consider clumsy and heavy, old pictures of windmills and owls, bags full of screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. We donated a full pickup load of clothes to the Baptist Crises Center, and we distributed several sets of dishes and kitchenware to younger generations in our family.

       Getting rid of what you’ve had a long time, or what once belonged to your parents, is not easy. How do you decide what to keep? Our rule-of-thumb is to discard everything that has no provenance, no story. Keep nothing merely because it’s pretty.

        About two weeks ago, in a podcast interview, I heard someone comment how it takes a while to deaccumulate - maybe longer than it took to accumulate in the first place. She gave as examples: unwanted pounds, anxieties, burdens, distractions, shame, prejudices, injuries, or fears.

       The podcast interviewer asked, “Why bother deaccumulating at all?”

       For me, the answer is a quote by Leonard Sweet, "The deeper I go into my spiritual life, and the more years I use up, the more important "finishing well" becomes.” Deaccumulating and finishing well, go hand-in-hand.

       I once attended a conference where the key questions was: How would you change the next five years of your life?

       My first reaction, of course, was that it’s impossible to change something that hasn’t happened yet. But I knew better. My next five years is already laid out in front of me if I keep living the same way I live today. Now is the time to consider deaccumulating what I don’t want to be carrying five more years.

       And yet, I have no desire to live a stripped-down minimalist life. One of our go-to movies, The Bourne Supremacy, has a heartbreaking scene when Jason Bourne burns all the evidence of his girlfriend and their life together, making it harder for the bad guys to find him again. He wanted to disappear.

       I’ve watched this scene many times, and it always makes me sad that he destroyed the traces of his life. It’s the opposite of how I want to live. I want to leave lots of evidence. I want to use the stories of my life to tell what God has done for me.

       But how do I decide what to keep, and what to discard for the future? There are a few things I’ll always be accumulating: ideas, observations, and connections, stories.

       In the Living Bible translation, the Psalmist asks God to help us to spend (our days) as we should. That’s a good prayer. It would be a shame if the most important things in our life are all in the past?

       A few years ago our Iron Men group took on a project to make a list of 100-Life-Goals. We each made our own list; I now realize it was my first attempt to move beyond numbering the days of my past and begin numbering the days remaining.

       I am now wondering if I should add a part two to my list of 100-Life-Goals: “100 Things To Deaccumulate.” What would you put on your list?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32