I’ve spent a lot of time on the treadmill lately. I set the treadmill on Calorie Burner, and away we go. Some days it is thirty minutes, other times twenty, or the quick run of fifteen minutes. What I’ve noticed is that I start my run with great vigor and intensity every day. This isn’t difficult to do. It also is not hard to finish my run in the final two minutes. Even if I’m tired, I see that I’m almost done and I will even speed the treadmill up a lot of the time. For a long time, I’ve used a phrase that worked better for my personality than it did for enacting change in my life.
“Start strong, finish strong.”
Well, the start and the finish aren’t very difficult. But are those two things to be the measurement of my workout. The start lasts from twenty minutes to eighteen minutes. The finish begins at two minutes and ends with a cool down. By using the start and the finish as my measurement, I am mentally ignoring sixteen minutes of my run. Sure, I go through those sixteen minutes, but how did I do those sixteen minutes? I’ve had times when I took a break in the middle in the most difficult part, then in the final two minutes of my workout, I speed up the treadmill and run harder to redeem the middle part of my run.
What I found on the treadmill is a mirror to my life. For much of my life, I have not valued the process. The process is the middle part, it is long, laborious, difficult, and it seems like it will not end. If I check out on the process, I am really dodging the most difficult thing in my life. Isn’t this how we imagine life will work?
I’ll get married, we’ll have a lot of fun in the middle, and then we’ll be even deeper in love when we’re old. (How often does this happen though? Particularly when there is more thought given to the wedding than the “how to” of living life as two people who have become one. It isn’t just fun in the middle. From what I understand, it is a lot of hard work.)
I’ve got a big idea for a ministry endeavor, and it could change everything in our church. (Are you preparing for the middle when you meet resistance, and people aren’t on board with you? Are you glossing over the focus of details and persistence because “there are more important things today” when you really just don’t want to deal with the process head on. Ouch. Preaching at myself now.)
I want to be a better friend. (So you work really hard at first on being a better friend, but what are you doing over the span of a few weeks or months to be a better friend? It’s more than just the fun events. Friendship is found in consistent caring, honesty, and loyalty.)
Here is a phrase I picked up from Steven Furtick that I have placed around my house at different times, preached to people, and believe is very powerful.
Between the promise and the payoff is the process, and the process is the point.
Starting strong with a promise (or hope) of what will be is exciting. The payoff (the goal being met) is equally exciting. But don’t skip out on the process, because the process is the point. The process is the key to change. Don’t dodge it. The middle matters. It will be difficult, but what will it cost you if you don’t work the process? What could you gain if you harness your focus and energy, and place it smack dab on the process?