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Conversations On a Treadmill
by Sherri Watt
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“Good morning Beautiful!” Sara heard a voice say as she walked on the treadmill. It was Thursday morning and the gym’s early morning crowd had given way to mostly moms and retirees. She yanked the earphones out of her ears; hit the treadmill stop button, and the noisy machine ground to a stop. “Beautiful! Oh, yeah, right!” she laughed as she looked down at her old college T-shirt and baggy sweat pants, her face wet with sweat. She turned around to see where the voice had come from. The mom on the treadmill next to her was engrossed in a romance novel, while two grandmas on recumbent bikes jovially swapped stories about their grandkids. Sara thought to herself, “That voice seemed so familiar”. She was sure it belonged to someone she knew, but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Realizing none of them were speaking to her, she shook her head slowly and tried to think of who it might be. “Well, it must have just been my imagination” she thought. So she popped the earphones back in and trudged on to finish her workout.

Once again the following day, as Sara approached the one-mile mark there it was again, that same voice. “Good morning Beautiful” This time it was not just her imagination, she was sure of it. Quickly smacking the stop button on the treadmill, she momentarily lost her footing. Her feet twisted around, torso going one way and hips another. Jerking her head around she looked in all directions for the voice she’d just heard. Nothing! No one she could see was speaking to her – but her contortions momentarily brought a lot of quizzical gazes her way. She smiled at the other women sheepishly as she climbed back on the treadmill. “How can that be? Am I losing my mind?” she thought to herself. Feeling a bit spooked from the whole experience, she decided to finish as quickly as possible. Also concerned that others might think her crazy, she decided to keep the whole unexplainable incident to herself. A few deep breaths to calm her nerves and she started up the treadmill again. Workout complete, Sara sprinted to shower and began her day.

The next morning, Sara slowly opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling. “Ahhh!” she thought to herself as she stretched. “It’s Saturday!” Throwing back the covers and sitting up, she smiled to see the sun’s soft rays shining through the window. She decided to skip the sweaty gym and enjoy the day outdoors. After all it was the weekend and an unusually beautiful day for March in the Midwest. Seventy degree weather was a rarity this time of year. With Dennis and the kids sleeping in, Sara hopped on her bike to take a ride through the countryside. A soft breeze blew on her face and the sun warmed her skin as she coasted down the hill. “What a beautiful day” she thought. “I so love the beauty of nature that You have created,” she silently spoke to God. “Thank you,” she thought she faintly heard someone say. But the noise from the wind and rustling trees seemed to dull her hearing. The voice was barely audible, so she chalked it up once again to her vivid imagination. “Maybe I need to get my hearing checked -- or my head examined,” she mused as she rounded the bend and headed home.

A chaotic flurry always swept through the Norton house on Sunday mornings. This Sunday was no different. “I need in the bathroom! Hurry up!” Sara heard one of the kids shout. “Me too!” another one shouted from the end of the hall. Everyone was scurrying around getting ready for church. “If we could make it to church on time just once, it would be a true miracle,” Sara muttered as she hurried to finish dressing.

Like most Sundays, the Norton bunch was running late and tempers were flaring. By the time they got everyone into the car and were on their way to the church, there was not a smiling face in the bunch. Even the couple in the car next to them at the stop light looked out-of-sorts. Sara was sure she saw the woman wagging her finger at her husband. “Glad to know I’m not the only one this happens to each Sunday morning” she thought smugly.
Sara clenched the bottom of her seat with both hands and held on tight as Dennis wove his way through traffic and yelled at other drivers to get out of the way. Now she thought to herself, “The heck with being on time, getting there alive will truly be a miracle!” Sara proudly refrained from letting her dissatisfaction with her husband’s behavior slip out, and instead decided to bring it up at a later time. “I’ll tell him what he did wrong later. Maybe tomorrow. After all, this is the Lords day” she thought, with a little righteous indignation.

When they finally got to the church and the children had raced to their classes, Sara and Dennis snuck into the service just in time to shake a few hands. Finding the only available place to sit, Sara collapsed onto the pew with a heavy sigh. “Why does it always have to be so complicated?” she asked under her breath. After a few choruses of “Amazing Grace”, her stiff neck loosened a little and she began to breathe a little easier. As they sang the second song, she began to feel something that seemed foreign to her. “I’ve felt this before” she thought. “It just seems foreign to me because it’s been so long since I felt this way.” As she lifted her hands in worship, her heart softened and a familiar warmth washed over her. It was God pouring His loving grace over her starving soul.

As always, the sermon was inspiring; yet today it was also uncomfortably convicting. Pastor Thomas had such a graceful way of presenting the gospel, while still feeding those already redeemed. As the invitation was given at the end of the service, a part of the message began to weigh on Sara’s heart. “How’s your prayer life?” Pastor had asked. “Have you been in conversation with God lately?” The questions seemed to reverberate in Sara’s head. Hanging her head, she finally had to answer with a resounding, “NO”. She had done what she thought was her duty, said her prayers and brought all her wants before the Lord. But conversation was not a part of it. All Sara could feel at that moment was pure shame. “This must change” her heart told her.

Walking forward to the altar with tears in her eyes Sara fell to her knees. She then began the first conversation with God that she had attempted in a very long time. “Oh Lord, I have neglected my relationship with you too long. Please forgive me,” her heart cried out. A voice responded “You are forgiven My Beautiful One. I have been waiting.” It was then that Sara recognized it. The voice had been Him. That familiar voice saying “Good morning,” each day had been God. He had been patiently waiting for her to hear Him.

Suddenly, thoughts began to rush through her mind. “Last week when I snapped at Lisa, His voice had said ‘apologize’. I had ignored it.” “When my children had wanted me to spend time with them, His voice had said ‘You’re being selfish’ but I took my own path and said ‘no’.” “During the argument with Dennis last night, His voice had said ‘You’re being proud’, but still I ignored it and stood my ground.” Sara was flooded with thought after thought as she realized how far away she had gotten from God. In those few moments as she knelt at the altar, she laid all her shame at the foot of the cross and was forgiven.

Since that day much has changed for Sara. Her conversations with God now begin at daybreak. They are lengthy, rich and continue throughout the day. Most importantly, they are two-sided now that she has learned to listen. She speaks to Him as she rises each morning, and listens to Him as she goes to bed at night. Her conversations on the treadmill are much more satisfying now that they are two-sided. As she goes the final mile singing songs of praise in her heart, she can feel His smile upon her. Shower, breakfast, a fresh cup of coffee, then she opens her Bible to soak in the Word. She places her day in His hands, and they’re off to face the world together.

Things are different now that He’s in charge. Sara can rest in the knowledge that the Creator of the universe loves her enough to personally greet her each morning. She can trust that He is big enough to handle anything that comes her way. Each day she does just that, placing her trust in Him.

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