"Almost" is a powerful word. It packs an incredible punch of hope or dismay. A marathon runner who is almost at the finish line will often get his second wind. But a woman who is almost ready to give birth is often not encouraged at all with the thought of almost. Almost means nothing when the pain is great, so great that you forget what you were trying to birth.
That's what happened to me when I had my first child. I forgot that I was giving birth to my son because I suddenly was in the midst of a pitocin induced roaring pain that felt like a freight train ripping through my body. So when the doctors in the delivery room (there were several due to Alex's preemie status) kept saying "You're almost there", I heard nothing but "Pain! Pain! And more pain!". I didn't hear an end in sight. I didn't see a finish line. I was in the midst of a searing "now" with no end.
I'm thinking about all this because that's what I was battling this past week: the almost verses the now. This past week was about the quiet but powerful influences that sap us of our strength, not the noticeable stresses we all have to deal with, such as travel and finances and logistical hurdles like delayed planes and traveling college students.
It was stressful- me trying to get our son back to Kentucky, but not something that many don't deal with every day. But because this was only his second time flying, his first time flying alone, and my first time walking him through it, it was a bit of a challenge. Thanksgiving holiday delays and overbooked seats caused him to get cancelled out of his planned return on Monday morning. Then yesterday when we went in, confident that we were getting him off on time, we found this second planned flight had a glitch with a delayed incoming plane that would cause him to miss his connecting flight. So he would have to be rerouted to Atlanta, which is one of the largest airports in the U.S., and there he would have to connect with the second flight and then get to Kentucky. He had to re-arrange a pick up at the airport (to get to his college campus) for the third time.
But he did get there. He called me last night after I had left a message asking, did you finally make it?
"I'm here in Kentucky, but we were hit by a tsunami so I'm underground with nothing to eat but peanuts and I think I'm having an allergic reaction- but other than that, I'm fine" he calmly told me.
"Ha-ha" I answered him back and smiled. If he was joking with me, then he had made it back safely. Alex always teases me when there is nothing to worry about. So he made it back to college. And I slept last night like a woman who had just run a marathon.
Now I'm back to a quiet house. No weddings, airline travel, hours of driving, or big social events in sight. These aforementioned things were not in and of themselves terribly hard to bear. It was more the unseen dynamics of the battle and the condition I was in when I had to stretch myself this week.
Since Bill and I are both at a career crossroads, and both feeling not only financial pressure but dream pressure, we both are feeling a little dried out- not vigorous and bursting with confidence like a body builder does when he looks at the 100 lb weights he's about to lift. I feel skinny, emotionally, and yet fat with apprehension about the next round I may have to go.
I see the rising economic pressures, the societal unease, and I feel the circumstantial evidence of a world bent on deterring weary travelers and a God who expects weary saints to overcome. If the world even agrees that what you're working towards is a worthy pursuit, it will not tell you that you can make it. The world tells you- you might make it- and might is meant to inflict doubt.
And if you're about to conquer a mountain or reap a harvest, the world will have to admit that you're almost there- but they'll say almost as in "anything could happen, though; and maybe you'll have to go back".
But God keeps telling me "You're almost there"- and by that He doesn't mean making it through the holidays. Beyond the logistics and the financial challenge of a festive holiday celebration, there's another challenge of sorts, having to do with your dream, your heart's passion, your call.
When you look at this kind of challenge, the question is always about the route you are traveling (whether you are on track or not), the distance you have made (are we making progress? Cause if we haven't then we're on a mountain circling round and round). The challenge is also about how much further you have to go and about the response of your spirit when God tells you that you are almost there.
Maybe you feel you are going nowhere. (You might have well meaning dear ones who indirectly let you know that you are going in that direction). God says Nowhere can turn into Somewhere- and don't be so sure you're going nowhere based on the landscape around you. Dry terrain, deserts- these are the places where God loves to shout out in laughter with surprising springs bursting up out of the ground.
I know I look like I am going nowhere. And yes, I feel like I am stuck in the middle of nowhere. But my feeling is not confirmation of reality.
I am certain, now, that some of the best progress we make is indiscernible to the natural eye. I am certain that some of my recent victories have looked rather pathetic to many, but not to God. He tells me "You're almost there, Lauren"- and God says that with Him, almost there is as good as there. Because He's with you en route, He was with you at the beginning, and when almost there turns to there, He'll tell you He already knew that it was.