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Not the beginning, nor the ending - but the middle

We are reaching the end of 2014 - for some a grateful end to a tough year, while others will look back and not even realize the passing of time.  Some will mourn the loss of loved ones, or the devastation of properties in the wake of some natural disaster.  Others will celebrate new life coming, or the advancement into a new place in life's journey.  Regardless of mourning or celebration, it all comes to an end and it is the end which also marks a new beginning.  We don't mourn forever - this is not God's way.  We don't celebrate without something also taking us down a pathway of "lesser" enjoyment - this is the way growth occurs.  It is not uncommon for us to judge the end of something to determine if it was worth the journey - the final scene determining the value of the whole.  We forget the "middle" simply because the beginning and the end stand in such stark contrast to each other at times.  Yet, it is the middle where the rubber hit the road, my friends.  It is the middle which often determines the outcome!

The end of something is better than its beginning. Not giving up in spirit is better than being proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLV)

It is the tenacity to see things through to the end which I think makes the difference in how we interpret the outcome of the matter.  There are times when we just want to give up, not really concerned with the outcome because the "middle" is so overwhelming.  This is when God comes alongside and just picks up the pieces of our lives - taking hold of burden and helping us to rise again.  If we walk away from the pieces, we never see the finished object. We just remember the pieces.  God's plan is in bringing order and structure out of the pieces, not in leaving them in rubble within our lives.

Although the beginning of a matter is marked with challenge and often the fear we will never succeed in the matter, the middle is often the most fatiguing.  It is there we see the stuff we are really made of - the things we really place our trust in.  The middle is where we see the "real us" and the depth of our trust in either our own ability and effort, or the strength and ability of Christ within.

The most telling part of the "middle" is our attitude.  Many of us will struggle with the "middle" of the matters of life.  We don't want to let others know how much we are struggling, though, so we cover up our struggles with a "strong facade".  In deference to all of us who actually do this let me just say you are not alone - I am there with you!  It is touch letting others see us as vulnerable and struggling.  Yet, in the honesty of being open to the struggle and honest about the impact of the "middle" upon our spirit, emotions, and thoughts, we are making it possible for others to become the instruments God can actually use in the midst of our struggle.

I am not advocating we become "billboards of defeat" here, but that we be honest about how it is we are dealing with the stuff life throws our way.  Those hurdles we have to jump are likely being run by others, as well!  We don't run alone - we run as teams!  When we see the ability of others to overcome the same hurdles we are having to leap over in the middle of our storms, we sometimes find more courage to take the first step toward overcoming them!

My track coach used to always tell us not to focus on the starting block, but on the finish line.  Yet, in between the two there was a whole lot of distance, some obstacles to overcome, and a whole lot of "traffic" getting in our way.  The endurance to finish well is what we really had to work on - not so much the start!  The pace by which we ran made the difference in how we crossed the finish line.  The "burn" we had left as we approached the finish line made the difference between fractions of seconds which could either help us finish or peter out.

So, as we look at the close of our year, let us remember we will face new beginnings with the new year, but in between the beginnings and the endings there will be a variety of "middles" to run!  Remember a couple of things:

- You don't run alone!  God sent his Son so we didn't have to run on our own merit.  Christ sent the Holy Spirit so we had someone to help us navigate the "traffic" and "hurdles" along the way.

- The race isn't about the beginning - it is about the "middle" and the pace by which we measure out how it is we will finish.  The pace-setter may be someone who sees our struggle and comes alongside to help us out.  Never underestimate the power of a pace-setter.  When we are honest about our struggles, someone who has run the race before can help us navigate the hurdles along the way.

We must not let the "middle" overcome us - we are overcomers of the middle!  Just sayin!

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