Living with Unfinishedness

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM – April 29, 2018

Period. Over. Complete. The End. Nothing more to say. Nothing else to do. It seems that very little about the human condition lends itself to the emphatic conclusion of a declarative sentence, the final chapter of a novel, or the last frame of a film.

Stary clear night sky. Mixed media

I was reminded of this when reflecting with a group on the humanness of Jesus and the reality that, though he was divine, he also fully embraced and inhabited our human condition. The reflection became personal when we turned and looked at our own humanness and sat with the question, “What are some of the things we like most/like least about being human?”

Our shared responses were sometimes humorous, sometimes profound. Eating, hugging, spending time with friends, and being able to love topped many lists of the qualities or activities the group was thankful for and appreciated about our human state. On the list of what we liked least about being human were aging, suffering, loss,  heartache. And then there were the limitations—of time, energy, resources, the reality that not everything can be resolved or successfully and finally brought to conclusion.

In my experience of working with the life of the spirit, a final resolution where all details are tidily in place remains in the realm of mystery. Being unfinished is an integral part of a life where we are at every moment in process. Hopefully, we see progress and movement toward growth and are able to hold the tension of incompleteness with a peaceful heart.

We’re not the same person at dusk that we were when we climbed out of bed at dawn. We experience the evolving and the incomplete: relationships begging for our time or our mending. Questions that remain unanswerable. Heartache, grieving, brokenness that yearns for healing. Our own deep inner soul work that accompanies us at every moment. The hunger for God that is as continual as our heartbeat. On some level, all of these experiences of unfinishedness can be echoes of our longing for the Holy.

Perhaps that’s why during the Easter season we may notice with fresh eyes the rather abrupt ending of Mark’s Gospel. Scholars debate whether Mark 16:8 was the actual conclusion, for clearly not everything is resolved, tidied up, squared away. In fact, it appears as if Mark has simply left the room and his writing and handed it over to us in its incomplete, unfinished state. Perhaps the message is that we’re to take up the story of Jesus and continue it in our own lives.

James Harnish, in Easter Earthquake appears to echo that sense when he asks,

“What if Mark’s incomplete story serves as an invitation to every one of us to complete the Resurrection story with our own story? What if he purposely planned for every follower of the risen Christ to add his or her own chapter to the never-ending story of God’s work of salvation in a sin-broken world? What if Mark’s nonending is the call for us to get in on the action and become part of a story that never ends?”unfinishedpraying

What if being unfinished is an invitation to cooperate wholeheartedly with grace? To live in hope, in trust, in possibility? To move whatever is incomplete in the lives of our ancestors closer to fulfillment in ours? To see in our lives the unfolding and evolving of a universe in bud? To trust that spring and blossoming are all part of the slow work of God?


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on your own human condition and some of the things you like most/like least about being human.
What images come to mind when you reflect on what is incomplete or unfinished in your own life or in the world around you?
What possibilities do you see in what is unfinished or still unfolding?
Give thanks to the Holy One whose love completes you always. 

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6 thoughts on “Living with Unfinishedness”

  1. Beautiful, Chris. What a perfect way to start the weekend. Hope you are doing well. Peggy Malloy Byk😊

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Unfinished is uncomfortable. It’s been almost two years since we up and moved to help out with our son’s new baby boy born with Downs Syndrome. He’s beautiful and doing well, in fact better than we expected.
    As for me, unfinished, unsettled and uncomfortable. Oh life is getting better but what a ride. In 62 years never have I moved and add to that retired at the same time. God has blessed me for which I am truly grateful. Chris, your writings have been a gift. Thank you for your honesty and understanding of how life is filled with surprises. I look forward to your posts. God bless you now and always. Marti

  3. I really like the whole post and especially what you say about being ‘able to hold the tension of incompleteness with a peaceful heart’ and seeing what is unfinished as an ‘invitation to cooperate wholeheartedly with grace …….. to live in hope, in trust, in possibility’. I haven’t achieved it yet, but would like to as I can’t think of a better way to live one’s life. Your encouraging words are just what I needed. Thank you.

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