It is Finished

by Dawn Stephens

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 ESV

As I read this verse, my spirit and emotions resonated with Jesus’ words. That day was my last as the principal of my school. I could relate to the idea of something finishing. The school had existed for 51 years and was now permanently closing its doors. 

Tetelestai is the Greek word translated as “finished.” It is an accounting term, meaning paid in full. Jesus said tetelestai, because he paid the entire debt of our sins with his life, which was the greatest gift ever. While my school’s and my job’s finishing were of course so much less significant than Jesus’ death on the cross, the Holy Spirit connected the two events in my heart.

The announcement four months earlier of the closing was a decision that had not surprised me. Ten years ago, the school had struggled in the same way. I was a part of the discussions to close it back then. During those discussions, the school board chairman asked me to step in as principal for a few years to identify the problems. As I considered the opportunity and what God wanted from me, I knew that was not enough time. My experience owning a business and serving in a start-up division of a large corporation told me so. 

Consequently, I committed ten years to the project. The first five would be to rebuild the school. The following five were to see if it could sustain. The first six to seven years were a great success. The school doubled its enrollment and earned the highest marks from accrediting institutions. From a ministry standpoint, it continually provided me opportunities to impact people with the love of Jesus. We saw children, parents, and teachers grow spiritually.

As the school’s financial needs increased, that thriving ministry kept me fighting to keep the school open. Only God knows the many sleepless nights and tears that I shed. My inability to give up and let go of the task He had given me was daunting.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He stopped doing some good things. As I thought about Jesus ending his earthly ministry, I thought about the many people He never had a chance to meet, teach, heal, or develop a relationship with them. So much more good could have been accomplished before Jesus declared Himself finished.

However, those additional acts were not the will of His Father. He submitted to and went to the cross. He set aside His immediate needs and those of the people around Him. A much more extensive plan was in place.

So, as I sadly removed years of work from my computer, loaded a dumpster with classroom creations, and said goodbye to teachers and students, I stayed focused on a bigger narrative. It is a story that I continually revisit as I write. A potter empties, fills, and cares for His vessels. Only through emptying can the clay pot have space to grow fruit. 

Like my story character Little Pot, I have things in my life dumped out often. It may be because I hold on too tightly or value them too much. There was a lot to fill me during those past ten years. Anyone who has done a principal’s job knows the exhausting responsibilities of the position.

However, the Holy Spirit’s fruit reproduces again and again. It is eternal and never finished.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning children’s author and illustrator Dawn Stephens is a Fruit Pot! In other words, she is a vessel through which the Potter has chosen to grow the fruit of the Spirit. It took a long time for her to discover that. She searched for purpose as a teacher, fundraising director, sales manager, and principal. God emptied and refilled her with new roles, and she believed she had found the one thing He wanted her to be. Each time, she let the things she held define her. Eventually, she realized God was more concerned about what could grow through her. Dawn continues to illustrate our relationship with Christ through stories of the Potter and his vessels. You can find them at

Join the conversation: What have you had to relinquish in order to follow God’s will for you?


2 thoughts on “It is Finished

  1. Thanks for sharing your encouragement, Dawn. With Jesus, we waste nothing. The years invested in God-led endeavors generate remarkable dividends, but we may not see the abundant returns until we arrive at our forever home.


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