Middles

Guess what word my name sounds like in Spanish? Almost. I know this because I was fondly called Almost a lot during a brief mission stint in Monterrey, Mexico, and I kind of hated it. ‘Almost’ shows a lack: sure, you’ve made progress, but you’re still falling short of complete. (The optimist would spin it the other way, making a season of ‘almost’ a gift of hope rather than an emotional burden.)

Regardless of your view of how full/empty the proverbial cup is, the middle of any project is the least glamorous. It’s easy to get caught up in the worn-off newness and the long way left to go. But really, what happens in the middle has a great deal to do with the outcome when all is said and done. Consider Austin Kleon’s hilariously accurate depiction from his book, Steal Like an Artist:

Frustration and complacency war for our hearts in the season of ‘almost.’ Can we just fudge the hard stuff and be done already? But anything worth doing is worth doing right. Thankfully, God doesn’t romanticize the middle. Scripture is clear that it can be so much less than fun. But Scripture is also clear about the amazing fruit that can be produced by making the most out of what Kleon calls “the dark night of the soul:” perseverance, hope, faith, and comfort. Without these byproducts of the middle, our faith is superficial, dissatisfying, and, well, an almost faith.

It is my belief that every endeavor has an ugly stage, and as someone who prizes aesthetics, the ‘almost’ season makes me squirm. It’s the garage that you have to bring everything out of to get organized, the sweat pouring down your back at the gym, the long meetings before the presentation: the ugly stage. I have recently comprehended that God wants me to be okay with where I am in the process, no matter how messy or far from the goal it might be. I’m not talking about allowing apathy to creep in; this is more giving myself a permission slip to be exactly where He has me, growing in patience with my own heart and with the path Jesus has me on.

Paul had to deal with his middle, too, working through knowing the right but doing the wrong (as did most Bible characters, so at least we are in good company). It’s tempting to run through the ‘almost’ phase, speeding along God’s timetable so we can quit feeling so dang uncomfortable. It’s also tempting to hide from it or give up altogether: at least failure means the trying can come to an end. The healthiest option, though, is to keep step with the Lord in the dark—He is perfect in both grace and truth, and maintaining His pace will allow us to reap the rewards He has in mind for us in His good timing. Chin up . . . you’re almost there.

What does your middle look like?

Middles

Hard because

Novelty has been replaced by drudgery; usually the ugliest stage of the process.

Easy because

You can see the progress you’ve already made and believe the outcome will be worth it.

Helpful because

God often calls us to carry on, even when the fun has worn off; it develops depth of soul.

So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

(Galatians 6:9)

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