Are you a beginner, middler, or finisher? You might think this question a little odd, but if you'd take a moment or two to actually answer it before you read the rest of this blog, I'd bet you might just come to come conclusions about yourself. You see, there are those who begin a whole lot of stuff, but soon fizzle out in their pursuit of whatever it was simply because they lose interest. Then there are those who get way into it and figure out it was going to be harder than they imagined, so they just abandon it right in the middle. There are probably less in the last group of finishers because to actually get to the end of something, you sometimes have to push past the stuff which doesn't capture your interest with an awe-inspiring "hook" or keep you plugging along when the task gets hard. Beginners make a lot of up-front investment, but seldom see any benefit from it. Middlers might get a little out of their investment, but it isn't as much as it could be if they actually finished. To get the most of anything, we have to finish it. It isn't any different in our spiritual life - to begin is good - to finish is far better!
Something completed is better than something just begun; patience is better than too much pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8 CEV)
I have begun a whole lot of things in my life. I began to read War and Peace, but put it down after just a little while because it was hard to read and just plain didn't interest me. I have begun on several occasions to let my hair grow out, but find myself soon losing patience with the effort it takes and cut it off again! I have begun many a diet, but I still don't follow any of them. In beginning, we make a good effort to do something - but for whatever reason, the effort isn't continued. Maybe this is the key - to go beyond beginning it requires effort. At any beginning, we ride high on the emotional charge of beginning something new. As we get into it a little bit, the emotional charge diminishes and now it becomes a little bit of effort. Therein lies the issue - we just don't count the cost before we begin.
Those things in life which I have actually made it a little further with, but which I didn't finish, also required effort - sometimes beyond what I was willing to give, or just too much for my heart or mind to get into. I can think of some dating relationships I have started, thinking they were going to be the right thing for me, then midway through I realized my heart wasn't really into getting past the hard stuff in them! You ever been there? It is pretty doggone hard to continue in something which you cannot put your heart and soul into, isn't it?
I began a friendship with them because I found we had common interests, or we just hit it off to begin with. Midway through it became apparent how much "work" these relationships actually required - they were "high maintenance" relationships. There was a lot of baggage. If you have ever been in one of those, you know just how much they drain you of everything you can pour into the relationship. If you have more than one of them at a time, they can actually exhaust you! For a while, you can pour your heart into it, but if there is no "balance" in the relationship, you soon feel the "weight" of being the only one "putting into" the relationship and the "baggage" becomes too much to actually carry alone.
Finishing actually requires us to not only begin, but to persevere in the middle! We are kind of spoiled today - we want "instant" - so when instant doesn't happen for us, we sometimes get annoyed with the progress we are making and just walk away. War and Peace I could put down - it didn't really matter if I finished it! The Word of God, from cover to cover, was worth my investment - a hard read at times - but definitely worth the effort! Yes, even those couple of dating relationships were okay to explore, but they weren't the right ones for a life-long commitment. The relationship I have with Jesus on the other hand - I cannot walk away from this one!
Now, the effort I put into my relationship with Jesus and in getting into his Word is not always "easy", nor is it "instantly rewarding". Some days I am just like you - my prayers feel like they are bouncing back to me without any answer; the passages seem to be words on the page, but never striking a chord in my heart; and sometimes it is just plain hard to make time for either in my hectic life! I keep in mind what Jesus said about beginnings - we are "born again" into newness of life with him. But...we don't stop there - he then calls us to continue in the pursuit of this new life in him as followers - disciples. Disciples are students of the Teacher - they put in the effort to learn all the Teacher has in store for them. It may be hard at times, but trust me on this one, it is worth every investment of the heart, mind, and soul you will put into it! Just sayin!