Several years ago Stealers Wheel recorded a hit song, "Stuck in the Middle with You." Part of the lyric went, "Clowns to the left of me; Jokers to the right; Here I am, stuck in the middle with you." It's an anthem to so many ideas, goals and projects.
Many times an idea launches with fanfare and celebration. The team is excited. Things start happening. The "change" word is bandied about. Plans are set in place. It all looks so good.
Then, in the middle, something happens. The project, the goal, get stuck. Whether it's bureaucracy, circumstances, or the temptation of that hot fudge sundae, we slow down. We're suddenly people in the quicksand of the middle. The emotional rah-rah is lost, we can't see the end goal for trying and the energy for it all just slowly disappears.
The Israelites suffered in the middle. The former slaves were heading to the promised land. Everything looked great. Seas parted, food reigned down from heaven and God was showing them the way. But, for some reason, they got stuck in the middle. An eleven-day journey took 40 years to complete and the original "team" never did make it.
If any group "had it all" it was this group. If any group should have easily made the goal, hit the target or finished, it was this group.
So what happened and what can we learn so we don't get stuck?
The people lacked vision. In spite of all that Moses did and said, the people lacked vision. This is seen clearly when the 12 come back from spying out the promised land. The people preferred to be negative while Joshua and Caleb saw plenty, the other ten saw disaster and the people clung to the negative. They lost vision. They were so lost they wanted to go back to the way things were - slavery.
They had unbelief. Their lack of vision led to unbelief. It's a horrible cycle for a team to begin. Lack of vision leads to doubt that leads to unbelief. "This is too hard" "Why did we ever start this" "It doesn't make sense". "The numbers don't work".
They were disobedient. God set a clear path before them and yet they strayed from it. They let their own pride, desire and plan get in the way of a perfect plan engineered by God.
As leaders we need to battle the fatigue of the middle. As the ceremony of the beginning wanes, we need to consistently communicate the vision. Our people must never lose sight of the "why". We must coach them through unbelief. When things start going the wrong way, we must discern if this is just an obstacle or a stop sign. If it's just an obstacle, we need to help our people go back to vision and the anticipated end result (the promised land).
Letting the middle get in the way will slow or stop any progress or growth. People think they are doing fine just by getting near the goal. Excellence gets reduced to acceptable. Mediocrity is just a breath away.