Today, I want to tell you a story about a guy who talked way too loud, and a still small voice that wouldn’t be silent.
Treadmills, Tirades, and that Telltale Voice
I had another 40 minutes to go on the treadmill at the gym. Paying a high monthly fee to do what you can do outside is a questionable practice, but then there were all the dumbbells and annoying classes that I sometimes suffered through. And paying the money obligated me to actually get out there and do it. Something that the mere outdoors often failed to do.
I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys exercise, but I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys expandable waste pants either. These things are mutually exclusive. So, here I was hoofing it for the better part of an hour.
Most of the time I watched the convenient little television attached to the torture device, but not that day. That day, I brought a book: The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. My Sunday School class was reading this bestseller on relationships, and I must say, the deep insights did live up to all the hype. My calves were screaming and my glutes were lit up like a bonfire, but I was enjoying the short respite from my maternal duties while I mined this book for gold.
Balancing a book on the treadmill takes a special skill that I had not completely mastered, but I was on my way well into another chapter, finding treasure that I struggled to highlight as I maintained my pace. I can’t read anything with a highlighter. And a pen. I can mark up a book with enough chicken scratch to make a hen house look neat and tidy. This book was so good that I’d marked the heck out of it. The insights were flowing while that highlighter was rollin’.
And then . . . he got on the treadmill right beside me. What the what? There were a dozen treadmills to my right, another half dozen to my left, and most of them were empty. There is a certain etiquette involved at the gym, you know. And He wasn’t getting it in more ways than one because he was on the phone, and his conversation was hanging out there like a toxic waste cloud for God and everyone to enjoy.
“She doesn’t respect me. I come home and it’s, ‘You forgot to do this. And you didn’t do that. I can’t do anything right. I’m working all day and this is what I get for it?” He griped.
Perhaps he had a point, but there is always another side to the story. He kept going on and on. AND ON. She never appreciated the things he did. She never thanked him. Only nag, nag, nag. Where is Dr. Chapman when you need him?
This went on for another ten eternal minutes and then, thank the Lord, he moved on to spew his toxic waste elsewhere, and I could finally get back improving my relationships by discovering how to express my love more fully for others.
Sometimes I’m a little slow. Especially when my legs are moving so fast.
“Do you think, maybe, he was spewing that noxious verbiage near you for a reason?” the Holy Spirit inquired. It was one of those “Hello! McFly! Is anybody home?” moments from Back to the Future.“Do you think, maybe, just maybe, you brought that book to the gym today for a reason?”the good Lord continued to knock on my noggin’.
Uh . . . yeah. I was a little slow on the uptake there. The dots between this dude and the relationship advice in my book really weren’t that far apart, were they? About as close as his treadmill was to mine. That hot, gooey conviction of the Almighty oozed over me like honey, sticky but still so sweet.
“Ok, God. I missed it. And I don’t know where he is now. But if I see him again, I’ll do something. Don’t know what, but something.”
I kid you not, as God is my witness, five minutes later the same dude gets on the treadmill to my left. Still a whole row of empty treadmills and this guy is all over me like a hovercraft. And he is still on the phone. Having the same conversation.
She expects him to be more helpful with the kids. The honey-do list is a mile long. She is a never-ending broken record of disappointment and regret. He is literally ready to call it quits. He wants to leave.
Oh, dear Lord, what have I agreed to? This is an impossibly tall order. What can I say to this guy? He has one foot out the door.
I looked down at the book in front of me that I just happened to bring that day. Oh, the irony. Or, the opportunity? Maybe I don’t have to say anything. Maybe it’s already been said by a relationship expert with a handful of post-graduate degrees, no less, and I just need to pass it on. Hmmm. That makes sense. I’ll just give him the book.
Then, the clutch of fear gripped me. Seriously? I’m going to give a complete stranger who is about to leave his wife a book on how to love your spouse? That’s audacious.
Then . . . I realized half the book was highlighted with myvery personal notes in it. [WINCE]
I didn’t know this guy. But, through no fault of my own, I knew an awful lot about him. And now, he was going to know an awful lot about me. Oh! How mortifying. Surely this was a bad idea. A very bad idea. He didn’t need this book. Oh, but I knew he did. Still, some presumptuous pixie dispensing unsolicited relationship advice couldn’t possibly make a difference, could she? I couldn’t give him this book with all my personal notes in it.
And yet, how could I not? I knew that is why I had brought it.
My treadmill dinged. It was time to act. It was time to do that something I said I would do.
I closed my book and without saying a word, I put Dr. Chapman’s bestselling relationship guide, with all my personal notes, in front of him. The subtitle glared, “How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”He looked a little stunned. And did I see a hint of shame? I gave him a hopeful glance, and I walked away.
I have no idea what happened to that guy. Not a clue. Never saw him again. I’ve prayed for him over the years as he has wafted into my mind with a nod and a wink from the Big Guy upstairs. Such encounters have His fingerprints written all over them, don’t they? Why did I bring that book on that day? Why did he have that conversation at that time? Why did he pick the two treadmills on either side of me instead of the 18 empty ones?
There is only one reason I can think of—our heavenly Father cares so much about us that He is willing to send a complete stranger bearing a strangely appropriate gift to us in the most unlikely of places, when we need it the most.
I have this recurring vision that someday on the other side, a vaguely familiar guy will run up beside me, first on my right side and then he’ll switch to my left, and he’ll say, “Do you remember me?”
“Uh . . . no. Can’t say that I do,” I’ll reply. After all, I knew so many people on earth.
And he’ll say,“You gave me a book one day and it made a big difference in my life.”
Then . . . he’ll tell me that his marriage was on the verge of collapse and that simple act of holy inspiration turned the tide. He and his wife reconciled and they went back to church and they became marriage counselors. Yes! Oh, and his son became a preacher. And his daughter became a missionary! And his dog won the Westminster Kennel Club competition. That is totally unrelated but that would be cool. Hmmm . . . Wouldn’t that be something.
Yea, his life might not have turned out exactly like that, but I do know that we have the power to transform lives through our actions. Even the simple ones. Perhaps especially the simple ones, those uncomplicated but courageous acts, divinely prompted, that we’ll miss if we blink and go about our business as usual.
Someone is about to throw in the towel and God uses us to throw them a lifeline . . . How humbling! It is those simple moments of holy inspiration that show us most clearly how much our heavenly Father loves us, how much He thinks about us, how intricately involved He is in the details of our lives.
There’s no doubt that I was on a divine mission that day. And I almost missed it because I was too scared, too preoccupied, too busy, too embarrassed to act.
What a difference we would make if we accepted the gentle but oh-so-awkward nudges from above. But we don’t want to step out of our anonymous comfort zone, we don’t want to look foolish, we don’t want to reveal our secrets, we don’t want to be bothered, we don’t want to offend. There’s always a reason. And the reason’s always right. Except . . . that it isn’t. Because when we think that way, we miss the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet here on earth. We miss the chance to love on his lost sons and daughters. We miss the chance to change a life.
I don’t know if I changed a life that day. But I do know I’d rather look foolish than miss the chance to try.
We may not see the effects of such simple acts down here, but one day, I think we will be dumbfounded to discover the impact of our obedience to that still, small, ooy-gooy, sticky-sweet voice. If we will say “yes” to His crazy whispers, one day in a place not so far away, we may have many someones run alongside us and say,“Thank you for that crazy thing you did. God used youto change my life.”
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright — turned stay-at-home-mother—turned author, speaker and blogger. She is dedicated to helping other women see their worth in a season when they often feel less-than.
Brand Design + Website by Carrylove Designs
Brand + Website Design by Carrylove Designs