ShePonders: Finishing Well


“My body vibrated with a deep awareness of having finished this task well, of walking in faith and accepting God’s outlandish invitation. ”

By Kelley Johnson-Nikondeha

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Click on the link above to hear Kelley sharing this month’s ShePonders: Finishing Well

It was August 2005. I sat buckled in my seat with my not-yet-two-year-old daughter sleeping in my arms. We were tired. This was our final of four flights from Africa to Arizona, after all. I remember clearly the sound of the chime announcing the beginning of our descent into Phoenix … and with it the torrent of tears that began to run down my face uncontrollably.

“I did it, I did what I promised. I did it, I did what I promised.” I kept repeating these words, like a mantra, an affirmation that I kept speaking to my daughter as she slept in my arms. “I said I would bring you home–and today I am keeping that promise.”

This was the culmination of a year-long process of our international adoption. It was a year I had held her in my heart, caressed her picture with my fingertips, prayed for her and believed for her healing and homecoming.  As any international adoption, it was fraught with complication but also a time pregnant with promise. Many people did not think I would bring her home, that for one reason or another I would not be able to do it. But here she was, in my arms, and descending into Phoenix.

And I knew at that moment that I did this, I did what I promised her I would do; I did what God asked me to do. I did not do it perfectly–but I did it. Once sick, now she was healthy; once an orphan, now she was my daughter; once a picture on my nightstand, now a lovely girl in my very arms. I did it …

When I reflect on this moment, the sensation is as fresh and as potent. But with time, I have pondered what this deep eruption of emotion was. This week I have returned to this moment and have found a name for the sensation–finishing well. My body vibrated with a deep awareness of having finished this task well, of walking in faith and accepting God’s outlandish invitation. I knew I did it, and I sensed to my very bone that even God was proud of me in that moment. To take liberties with a Biblical phrase, I felt like I was “overshadowed by the proud-ness of the Almighty.”


I don’t hear much about this in the circles I move in these days–that God expresses pride in us and our accomplishments, that He celebrates when we finish well. But what I sensed that day was not a mere human boasting, it somehow felt holy. And when I remember it, when I feel the emotions afresh all these years later, it is like returning to a high place, an altar in my heart where I savor that moment when I finished well and felt God’s pleasure.

But upon some Biblical digging, I think I see hints of this in Scripture. I had to hunt a bit, because I think even the saints that have gone before don’t (1) brag about this and (2) know how quite to say it. But think about Moses. He did some amazing things at God’s invitation–contending with Pharaoh for the release of the Hebrew slaves, navigating the wilderness for forty years and bringing the people to the edge of the Promised Land.


In Deuteronomy we are told that God brought Moses to the border of the land and showed it to him. “This is the land–I have let you see it with your own eyes,” God says. The story continues, saying that even though Moses was 120 years old, his sight was unimpaired. The story-teller is making a point–it was God’s great grace to allow Moses to see the land, to see that he did what he set out to do, which was move the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses did not do it perfectly, but he did do what God asked of him. I imagine that walking toward the land, reaching the divine look-out point, he felt a swell of emotion. He did it … and God wanted him to see it … and they shared that moment of finishing well.


What about Sarah? How old was Sarah when the angels told her she would finally bear a son? She laughed when the angels first told her the news, but she was not laughing when Isaac was born and she held him in her arms. In Genesis it says she was more stunned than anything, or at least that’s how I read it. The storyteller says that she said something along the lines of “who would have ever thought it … ” She did it! She carried that boy to term in her advanced age. She delivered him into the world. She finished well.

Both Moses and Sarah had these threshold moments, finishing well near the end of their lives. And what a great grace that God allowed them to see it, because it does not always work out that way for us. But they did see the fruit of their labors and felt the deep satisfaction and awe of finishing well. There are others who experienced this moment earlier in their lives.


Recall Abraham. He took that longed-for and waited-for son and walked him up the mountain to sacrifice him, as God required.  (I am not sure that this is the best rendering of the story, but it is one tradition we have been handed down, so we will let it lie there, for now.) He bound him, foisted him up on that pile of rocks and firewood, he drew his knife high in the air and began the heart-rending plunge … Until God stopped the insanity and provided a lamb. But Abraham, in effect, did it. He did what God asked. He did one of the hardest things ever. And then Genesis says God told him, “Because you have done this …” because you have finished well, “I will make your off-spring so numerous that even the stars in the sky cannot match their number.” God was strutting his pride in Abraham, rewarding him for finishing well against all the odds.


But the most near to my heart is Mary’s experience.  Mary was visited by the Holy Spirit and impregnated with God. Luke tells about her visit to her cousin and how, overcome with awe, Elizabeth says: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Then she continues, in a less quoted phrase, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Reading this sentence took my breath away today, as if reading it for the first time. It named my own experience … believing that there would be fulfillment! And there is a great blessing in that–and then living it out to the end. Mary believed in that fulfillment–she became pregnant, experienced the swelling in her belly and then delivered a child into this world. What a sensation there must have been that overshadowed her–she did it! She collaborated with God and experienced in her very body His working. She did it–she finished well! And, we read later in the story, that she pondered all these things in her heart. A woman after my own heart … pondering that moment again and again, returning to that special place of feeling God’s pride at finishing well.


This all came back to me on Sunday morning, as I thought of our SheLoves tribe running their Half-Marathon. I thought of them crossing the finish line. Well, more specifically, I imagined them cresting the final hill and catching that first glimpse of the finish line. As if triggered by a chime, emotions streaming down their faces as they ran that last bit, descending toward the end of their run. They would know that they did it. They did it–not perfectly–but they did what they said they would do for their sisters in Uganda. They would finish well and know the swelling satisfaction that comes from finishing well. They, too, would be overshadowed by the proud-ness of the Almighty.

How wonderful that God shares in the celebration of our successes!  What great grace that we get to see it, feel it and experience His deep pride and pleasure with us in those moments. It is nothing to be ashamed of, not at all. These are high places we can ponder in our hearts for years to come. We finished well …  We will do it again, by God’s grace!



  • When have you felt God’s pleasure in finishing something He’d asked you to do?

About Kelley:

Kelley Johnson Nikondeha is co-director of Amahoro Africa and international staff member of Community of Faith with her husband Claude. She’s a thinker, connector, advocate, avid reader and mother of two beautiful children. Kelley lives between Arizona and Burundi. She loves handwritten letters, homemade pesto and anything written by Walter Brueggemann.