So, it’s 1:40 in the morning and I can’t sleep. I’ve laid in bed for nearly 3 hours now, eyes wide shut, hoping for rest, longing for relief, but one prayer continues to burn through my mind and won’t stop echoing through the chambers of my heart…“my God in Heaven, please, please, above all else, help me to…finish…well.”
I cant seem to get the apostle Paul’s words to stop ringing in my ears like crashing symbols where he writes in 2 Timothy 4: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Over and over again tonight, I find myself begging God to let me have the honor of speaking those words over my life.
I’m finding more and more that it doesn’t matter how you start, but how you finish that ultimately counts. Paul himself is the perfect example. Here is a man who not only had a bad start, but an evil, vile, wicked, & reprehensible period in his life. He not only condemned early believers, but was literally responsible for the viscous murders of entire family’s whom uttered the claims of Christ. But those days became irrelevant in light of the cross. The apostle Paul was remembered not for how he started (as bad as it was)…but how he finished; as one who fought hard for, ran strong with, and lived out the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like tonight, I sometimes find myself haunted by the fear of missing out on this legacy…
Tonight, I, like so many, can’t get the name Joe Paterno out of my head. Isn’t it sad, that the name Joe Paterno is headlining more news magazines in recent days that the name Jerry Sandusky. Why is that? I have a theory, and it’s that theory that haunts me tonight. It’s that instinctively, humanity is more drawn to a fall from grace, the further that fall tends to be. Think about it, if someone who has no public platform or reputation, or no accolades to their name, and they fail morally, or socially, how often does it make the headlines? RARELY. If a plumber gets caught buying crack from a male prostitute, you’d be lucky to see it on an episode of COPS. If a pastor gets caught doing the same, it’s national headlines for weeks. Why? Because, intuitively, we are drawn to watch people fail, when they have more to lose.
All of your accomplishments and impacts on the world are forgotten when you finish poorly, especially if you’ve accomplished much. After reading all of the articles, and seeing all of the reports, I’m more convinced than ever, that Joe Paterno’s legacy will be one of tolerance to evil, rather than one of legendary coaching, or leadership. And it’s sad, because here’s a guy who in 45 years of coaching has seen over 400 wins, two national championships, five undefeated, untied teams, 5 AFCA coach of the year plaques, and more than 350 former players who have been signed to the NFL. He was a legend…but now, all of that will be overshadowed by the scandal in his program. When his final chapter is written, it will be titled “The Fall of a Legend.”
And here is why this leaves me sleepless…I pray more than anything else that that would not be me. Not for my own sake or reputation, but for the reputation of the one whose name I bear, Jesus Christ. I say this not because I feel like I am even remotely as accomplished as Joe Paterno, but because I represent one whose accomplishments can’t even begin to be measured, and whose message is one the world desperately needs to here.
This is why, as someone who is responsible for the care of teenagers, I take my responsibility seriously, and scandal likes this always makes me check and recheck my operating procedures for myself and those leaders I serve with. It’s the very reason we have background checked leaders in place, and why we keep our leaders in groups of three when they are with our students. It’s why we have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse allegations and will ALWAYS involve authorities. These kinds of things are IMPORTANT to me, not only for the sake of our kids, but for the sake of the Gospel.
So, my commitment has been, and will continue to be…that I will take EVERY measure possible to ensure that as an ambassador of the King, I finish well, and that my legacy glorifies my father in Heaven, rather than being plagued by my sin on the earth. So, here I sit…awake, reminded by the tragedy of Penn State, with a resounding prayer beating the drum of my soul… “my God in Heaven, please, please, above all else, help me to…finish…well.”