I feel like every episode of our podcast, Richest Men In Town, is like one of my kids and I know that I am not supposed to have a favorite kid (don’t worry Grace and Abe, I don’t). That being said, Episode #24 “Be a Leaf in the Stream” has to be on the short list among my favorites that we have done. Sitting down with someone that really admire, Doug McMullin, taught me so much about not only who I am but, more importantly, who I really want to become.
One thing that came up in our talk with Doug is a little something that does seem to delay and sometimes cripple my “becoming” process. It is the word “almost”. It is a terrible word, a debilitating word that if unchecked takes good men with “potential” and transforms them into “tinkling cymbals” that cannot be trusted because they are “all talk”.
I hate the word “almost”. Rarely is the word used to describe something positive. Okay, “almost” getting killed in a car accident is quite positive. I’ll give you that one. Generally speaking, the word “almost” cheapens everything it touches. You think about it…in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Dennis Eckersley “almost” got Kirk Gibson out (count was full). In 2002, the Sacramento Kings “almost” beat the Lakers to earn the trip to the NBA Finals. In 2003, the Chicago Cubs “almost” went to the World Series (freaking Bartman!). Then there was that time that the Seattle Seahawks almost beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 49. You remember, the Seahawks miraculously drive the ball down to the Patriots’ 1 yard line only to literally throw the game (and a chance at back-to-back championships) away when Russell Wilson threw an interception to Malcolm Butler. That one still hurts.
Sports aside, whenever I hear the word “almost” being used I instantly think of a couple of sad messages that the word inherently delivers to my brain:
The first thing I think of is King Agrippa. You may remember the story. Paul is imprisoned for two years and appeals to have his case brought before Caesar, as was his right as a Roman citizen. In the process of getting to Rome, he is brought before King Agrippa and Paul bears down some unbelievably powerful testimony to the King. He recounts his experience and shares his witness of the Savior. He finishes his remarks with this question, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” King Agrippa’s response is legendary and chilling, “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:27–28)
Another thing that pops into my mind is the dontalmostgive.org series of PSAs sponsored by the AdCouncil. You may have heard them…
-There’s the one about the homeless man who was almost given a ride to the shelter.
-The hungry kids that almost got food.
-The elderly woman who was almost visited and helped.
These are powerful reminders that “almost doing” is the same as not doing. Somewhere recently my switch got turned from the “do” position to the “almost do” position and it has stifled my progress in many ways.
Case and point…September 15th, 11:50 EST. For the last three or four months I have had a magazine clipping on my nightstand. It called out to me the first time I saw it and I cut it out because it was an open door to challenge myself to do something that I have been thinking and praying about for some time. It was a call for essays in a writing contest in a nationally circulated magazine. The winner of the contest would receive $3,000 cash, a trip for two to New York City, and a series of meetings with the editors of the magazine. It was a great opportunity for me to test my talent and throw something out there. That clipping inspired me every day and night to take the chance “just to see” if I could do something great. The deadline for the competition was September 15th, 11:50 EST. Plenty of time…
From time to time, I would play out the essay in my mind and I felt like I had something good. Maybe not great, but with some work it could get there. But the important point is that I had something to write. The night before the deadline, I mapped out my idea and framed it in an outline that would meet the 1500 word limit set forth in the contest rules. To make a long “almost” story short, the next night I wrote furiously only to see the word count at the bottom of the page hit 1248 and the clock hit 8:51 PST. That window, that chance, had closed. I “almost” took my first shot at being a published writer.
Now, I know that I am not done and in my head right now I can hear my co-host Tyler Goold saying “there are many onramps”, meaning that our loving God gives us, His children, lots of chances to do the right thing and do those things that will help us move closer to who He knows us to be. There will be other chances out there.
The point is that “almost” is a robber. It robs us of time, opportunity, and progress. “Almost” is everywhere we look. Do you know that I have “almost” bought a bike to ride for exercise four times since June? I have “almost” taken my son down to the lake to go fishing? I have “almost” reached out and ministered to people that I know are going through hard things. I “almost” begin to floss my teeth every time I leave the dentist office where I tell the hygienist that I will recommit to flossing. I “almost” watch what I eat. I “almost” empty the change in my ash tray and give it to the beggar as a response to his humble petition. I “almost” turn the TV off. I “almost” changed the station the other day when an inappropriate song came on. I “almost” took the time to say thanks to the teacher in church who spiritually feeds me every Sunday. I “almost” shared the good news of the gospel with those amazing people that I have been blessed to have around me.
The list goes on but here is the scary end of too many “almosts”. In Matthew, Chapter 7 Jesus teaches:
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
I love those verses and I want with everything that I have to hear, do, and be the wise man with his house built upon a rock. What I am quickly realizing is that “Doeth them not”=Almost doing them. There are too many things to do nothing and the things that need to be done are those things that will put me and my family in the place where my Heavenly Father is expecting me (and them) to be.
Thank you to Doug McMullin and all of our Richest Men In Town guests for encouraging me to win the war against “almost”. With their help, I feel like I am at a “Jimmy Chitwood” crossroads right now. You know the scene from Hoosiers with Jimmy Chitwood when he shows up at the town meeting and says those famous words, “I think it’s time for me to start playing some ball.” Well, that is how I feel. Not “almost” time to play some ball or time to “almost” play some ball. It’s time to play some ball.