Can we actually finish the semester?

8 months ago Triangle 0

Written by: Nathan Ecarma, Editor-in-chief

We’re all here one way or another. Here being the point in the semester where nothing seems to be enough. It’s no longer enough to drink excessive amounts of coffee, no longer enough to turn the music louder or even enough to will our way to the end.

And these aren’t new feelings, these feelings of being enough. Years ago, I felt these same feelings during a tennis match.

My match was on a clay court. It was hot, no hotter than 100 degrees but no cooler than 95 degrees. The match had gone longer than I expected it to—and we weren’t even half done. I had been playing poorly, and my body was tired. My limits pressed up against me–my limits of athletic ability, having played many matches before this one, my limits of mental tenacity, having charted out dozens of plays only to find none of them to be working, my limits of emotional stamina, having already cried from a lost match.

My opponent had won a game, and so we walked over to the bench to drink water and take a break. We sat on the benches. And we sat. We didn’t get up. It was the longest break of any match I had ever played. Five minutes went by. Ten minutes went by. Fifteen minutes went by. But neither of us moved. We sat there sipping our water, staring at the clay court.

It wasn’t simply that I didn’t want to get up and finish the match because there was a real degree of exhaustion; I couldn’t get up.

I didn’t want to get up and finish the match. I had played three or four that day, and I was tired. But I also couldn’t get up. It seems as I tried, but nothing happened. I thought I sent the right brain synapses, but my legs did nothing in response. The elasticity of my muscles would not respond. I was tired.

And today, I’m sitting in Common Grounds, and I don’t think I can get up; I can’t find the strength, the elasticity, to finish that essay, to revise that other essay or to even prepare for that test. If the semester has taught me anything it is this: I am limited, inadequate even. I can’t, right now where I am at in my education, write that essay or tie those ideas together. I can feel my limits. I can feel them pushing against my shoulders.

But it’s not only a matter of school work, but of life’s dangers, toils and snares. We’ve all felt it this semester, the fragility of this world, whether through death, divorce or any other dire happening.

And now, we sit on a bench, and we can’t get up. I’ve drank coffee, I’ve turned the music up, and I’ve pushed myself. There’s no response.

Unlike any other semester, I’ve asked myself, “Can I actually finish?”

After 15 minutes of sitting on that tennis bench, I shoved myself off, forcing my legs to either contract or face the abrasion of the court. And they worked, not well, but they worked. I walked, hobbled more or less, to the baseline, leaned over and waited for the serve to come.

At that point in the match, I couldn’t look at the scoreboard, to do so would be to see how many more games I have left and to do so would be to see how many games I lost. So, I didn’t. I returned the serve and played the point. Then I played the next point. And the next point. It was enough, in its own rite. It wasn’t enough to win the match. But it was enough to finish it.

At this point in the semester, we can’t look at the throngs of future assignments and we can’t look at past grades. We need to look at what immediately lies before us. “Give us this day,” a man from Galilee once said.

For my sake, I wish I could say that I stood up from that bench on that hot day to win with flying colors. If I did, I could exhort myself to will my way to the end, to finish strong. I didn’t win; I finished, but I didn’t win.

Finishing strong isn’t a matter of finishing with flying colors. Finishing strong is a matter of finishing by doing our reasonable best.

On that tennis court, I did my reasonable best, and it wasn’t enough to win. And so now, we can do our reasonable best today because our finishing isn’t a matter of finishing strong by worldly standards with any lack striking down our worth. We can do our reasonable best and just finish because that man from Galilee already said, “It is finished.”

Nathan Ecarma studies Bible, culture, and language. He serves on the Worldview Initiative and as Editor-in-Chief for the school newspaper, the Bryan Triangle.