“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
I was finishing a fairly intense climb ride on my stationary bike, shooting for a top-ten finish. Beads of sweat poured off me as I labored the final seconds of my ride. I noticed that the person in ninth place was well ahead of me in the final minute and that number eleven seemed to be coasting. I decided there was no harm in doing the same. Yet to my unbelief when the clock went to zero I had tied another rider who snuck up from the back. Somehow I had ended up in eleventh place. By choosing to not pedal hard until the final second I had blown my top-ten spot. I didn’t finish strong that day.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not how you start but how you finish.” Or heard the coach yell for us to “run through the finish line”. We’ve seen the great endings in sports, the Super Bowl comeback drive or the winning jump shot at the buzzer. But what if I told you there were even greater ways to finish strong. That maybe it’s less about the result and more about what our finish says about who we truly are. What if there was an even more significant way in life to finish strong?
The Imperfect Game
On June 2, 2010 a young man named Armando Galarraga took the mound for the Detroit Tigers versus the Cleveland Indians for a game he would never forget. Galarraga mowed down batter after batter, leaving twenty-six consecutive Indians hitless and only one out remaining in the top of the ninth inning. The atmosphere in his home Comerica Park and the energy from Detroit fans was electric as the final batter of a potential perfect game came up to bat.
That same night a man named Jim Joyce attentively eyed the play standing down the line behind first base. Wearing his umpire’s uniform he understood the importance of this final at bat and reminded himself to stay focused and get the call right. Indians batter Jason Donald drubbed a ground ball to the left of first baseman Miguel Cabrera who seamlessly threw a dart to Galarraga as his foot stepped down on first base. The runner was out by a yard and it should have been cause for celebration...only Joyce hadn’t seen it that way. Joyce threw his opposing arms outward, signaling the runner safe. Players, fans, managers and the collective baseball world groaned as they grabbed their heads in unbelief. It appeared to be a blown finish in what could have been a historic game.
But this was not the finish, there was still time to finish strong.
The twenty-eight year old Galarraga knew that the runner was out yet he didn’t scream at the umpire or throw a fit. He wryly smiled, knowing that Joyce had simply made an error. After the game as members of the media baited the humble pitcher about the botched call he responded with a shrug of his shoulders and a simple answer, “nobody’s perfect”. 
Joyce later realized his error and tearfully fretted over the missed call. Once voted the most respected umpire in Major League Baseball he would now be known only in infamy for blowing the young man’s status in the annals baseball history.  But even he too would finish strong by admitting his error and apologizing to Galarraga both privately and publicly as well. 
Life’s Finish Lines
In my life today I am seeing many more important finish lines showing up than on a stationary bike or baseball diamond. As our family is rallying around a family member with significant health issues we all want to finish strong together with and for him. If we consider the opportunities God puts before us to finish strong I ask for you to think about what kind of finish matters most in life.
If you are nearing the end stage of a current job, how can you finish so that your colleagues see that you care more about doing things with integrity than for personal gain? If you’re struggling with a manager or boss, how can you live out your faith in how you respond and lead those around you in the midst of difficult circumstances? When you think about your own future legacy what kind of finish will you want to be remembered for? Will you choose to be upset over missing a “perfect game” or will you humbly accept the calls you are dealt and respond to them with great poise and character?
Today is a brand new chance for you to finish strong. Don’t make the mistake I made and take your foot off the pedal. Instead give it all that you’ve got until the final second. Live out each day and moment with integrity and for the purpose that God has called you for. Finish strong today and every chance you get. You will never regret doing so.