by Pastor Billy Byler
I have a love/hate relationship with my treadmill. Jogging outside is hard enough. You do all that running, make all that effort, spend all that energy, avoid all those dog walkers, and yet you still inevitably end up EXACTLY where you started. There’s not even a scoreboard to tell you if you won or lost! There’s no one to beat! As a highly competitive, red-blooded American, this goes against my nature.
But the treadmill is even worse. At least when you’re running outside you get to see stuff. I once jogged by a man with a leaf blower attempting to blow leaves from his yard while the leaves were still on the tree. That is a man in need of patience.
But there are no such sights to see on a treadmill. All you typically get is a digital read out of how far (or short) you’ve run and some depressingly low health statistics (congratulations, you’ve burned… 13 calories!). If you time it right, you may find a treadmill at the gym with a small TV screen attached. This sounds amazing in theory. But in reality all you end up getting is a re-run of King of Queens in which Doug’s plan to outsmart Carrie fails AGAIN or a sporting event with far too many timeouts and, as a result, commercials about pharmaceutical drugs with side effects like “depression” and “death” and “spontaneous resurrection followed by more death.”
Am I getting too specific? Sorry. I just needed to vent.
So, there I am, on a Saturday morning when it’s far too cold to go run outside and with far too few scoreboards around for competitive exercise. So it’s on the treadmill I go. Mentally, it’s difficult because no matter how fast I run, how high I set the incline or how long I go, I’m not actually going anywhere at all. I can spend all that effort, energy and time, yet I remain in the exact same spot.
Life can feel that way sometimes. We can use up so much of our resources, time and energy yet see so little evidence of progress. But the truth is: there is progress. There may be something going on beyond just what we feel or perceive. The truth is that every time I complete a workout on a treadmill, I may not be physically moving anywhere but I am moving one step closer to bigger goals of completing a future race and becoming healthier.
The same is true in other aspects of our lives. We may be in a season that feels like a treadmill – expending large amounts of energy without seeing results. However, the truth is we may be in a period of training, of equipping, of learning that is necessary before we’re ready to face the next challenge, obstacle or opportunity that is coming our way. Let’s not forget the 40 years Moses spent in the wilderness before leading the Israelites to freedom (Ex. 2:21-25, Acts 7:29-30), the four months Nehemiah waited to discern what God wanted him to do (Neh. 1:1,2:1) and the nine months Zechariah was forced to remain silent and think about God’s plan to use his family to prepare the way for the birth of Christ (Luke 1:19-20).
In each instance, these regular people did not waste their time by sitting idly by; rather, they used the time given them to prepare to participate in God’s work and purpose. So while there are plenty of other examples in scripture of God calling us to act, takes risks and lead for His sake, let us not overlook the valuable “Treadmill Times” of training, equipping and learning. Don’t waste these times. These may be the opening chapters to an epic journey alongside God and His people.