I suppose this is what it feels like to be stuck. Something akin to heavy footsteps landing on a rickety old treadmill day after day. Same drab concrete walls for scenery. Same few folks who always trickle into the gym around the same time you do. Same soundtrack of tired songs blaring from your earbuds. Same irritated mind cursing the madness of running but going nowhere. Same restless soul aching to venture outdoors. Yes, this is what it must feel like to be stuck.
I have been avoiding this post, not wanting to complain nor admit that I have spent the last several months of my life needlessly running in place. I have been stuck – muscles lethargic; creative juices dripping dry; eyes desperate to see new corners of the world; heart envious of people who have moved on to new jobs, dreams, passions, loves, babies, and addresses, while my life remained unchanged – and steady making excuses as to why it had to stay that way.
Granted there was a time when newness was not in the cards for me. Though my mind and heart wanted to move on, my spirt knew God wanted me to stay put. But that was then, and this now.
It’s easy to miss the shift. You can sense that the time for change is near, but cautiously await some mysterious sign that you should make your way outdoors. All the while, you’re running in place, steps growing heavier, mind overcome with exhaustion, spirit asking God for some clue as to what outdoor trail would best suit you. You can get stuck in the rut of hoping God will either send a clear answer or mercifully pull the plug on the particular treadmill currently holding you captive.
As I have been talking to God about what possibilities my future may hold, He has given me a bit more appreciation for life’s treadmills. My ‘stuck’ phase has revealed a few important things about those clunky machines in the musty gyms of our lives:
Treadmills serve a purpose. It is foolish to think that treadmills are a waste of time. Treadmill workouts build strength and endurance while toning your body and whipping you into shape. They provide a safe place to walk or run when the outdoors is either dangerous or unpleasant. Treadmills may lack the freedom and other benefits of an outdoor workout, but just because you are in the same place does not mean you are not making progress.
What part (or parts) of your life feel like one uneventful treadmill run? Is it a dream that seems like it will never become reality, a dead-end job, or a lackluster love life? Stop to think about what skills and lessons you may have you picked up from the unwelcome monotony. Consider the purpose behind your discomfort. So what your life has yet to change; how have you changed?
Treadmills give you a needed push. As sick and tired as we can get of running on a treadmill, we have to admit that we don’t do so completely in our own strength. The belt and I make a good combo; the simple act of it moving gives me a momentum that is hard to initiate or maintain on my own. When I stagger, it propels me forward.
Likewise, God reminded me that there is not a single area of my life that I have traveled alone. Whether I have been walking or running, bursting with energy or ready to throw in the towel, He has pushed me along every step of the way.
Treadmills are voluntary. As in no one has chained you to it. You make the decision to keep getting on it every day. Whether you hit a button and wait for the machine to stop or hop off while it’s still moving, you can get off as soon as you make up your mind to do so. God might pull the plug on treadmill situations for some people, but He wants most of us to get tired and quiet enough to hear Him when He says we have gained all we can from a particular treadmill.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV) reminds us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Sometimes His carrying it on has extraordinary highs and flashy wins. Sometimes it feels like a string of losses. And sometimes it feels like one long season stuck on a treadmill, wondering how it is possible to be so exhausted and still so very bored.
Yet don’t despise your life’s treadmills. Remember that there is a greater purpose in your mundane routine, that it is somehow preparing you for your future and propelling you toward something greater. Talk to God as you run, asking Him for the wisdom to see exactly how the experience is making you better. But most importantly, don’t believe the lie that you are stuck. If you stay in conversation with God, He will give you the discernment to know when it’s time to move on to open trails. Just make sure that, during your treadmill season, you built up your faith and courage enough to quit hemming and hawing and just do it.
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area. A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.