I owe a large chunk of my sanity to the gym. It’s not exclusively the exercise that keeps my thoughts cheery, it’s also coffee, sleep, girlfriends and...oh yeah, God (of course). But the gym...it sorta had me at “hello”. Gotta love (trustworthy) childcare. Seriously, what did we ladies do before gyms offered quality kid entertainment...scratch that, let’s go even further back, what did we mamas do before the invention of cartoons (primitive childcare)?? I don’t know that I can bring myself to even imagine life that way! I swear my kids don’t watch T.V. all day...
Back to our gym discussion! These days, for me, time at the gym equals one happy mama! Well, the equation isn’t foolproof, but you get the idea.
A couple days ago I was at the gym, attempting to harness a good mood. My exercise machine/regimen of choice: the elliptical. It burns thousands upon thousands of calories, FAST (or so I’ve convinced myself). In truth the real enticement for me is that it requires zero creativity. It’s my ‘hop on and check out’ workout.
I got on that machine, hoping to sweat the trials and drama of mamahood away. It was morning (not even mid-morning) but I was already emotionally wrung out from the pre-school routine which had included a good percentage of arguing and coaxing and possibly hair loss (on my part). I was dying to lose myself in some Pandora and (hopefully) return to motherhood a civilized(ish) woman.
Even as the first few notes from my “Bethel” channel began to play through my earbuds, I could feel peace and joy filling me. It was like an injection of elation that was growing and rising inside me. The mental and emotional switch was unmistakable because no amount of joy had been anywhere near me mere seconds before.
As my legs and arms pumped out the rhythm of the music, I started to feel a chill as my arm hairs began to stand at attention. A supernatural, holy sort of thing was happening. Amid a sea of treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes I became acutely aware that I wasn’t alone. I could feel God all around me. He was keeping me company, placing his hand on my shoulder just long enough for me to notice his touch and calming my soul.
For some of you reading, I might be stretching those boundaries of comfort just a little. Trust me, I get it! I used to be quite the skeptic. My impulse, for most of my life, was to reject anything short of concrete. I crave facts and proof and all manner of things that require zero faith. Most of us (myself included) love our tidy, cozy little comfort zones; marked with bold, bright neon edges, coned off at the corners for extra protection. Staying within those borders is what holds the very fabric of our minds together. Without boundaries who knows what might happen. One might get CRAZY and radical; dare we say twitchy, irrational or quacky?? Maybe, and who wants to be any of that?? Not us!! No, Sir! But, I know we’ve all had these very moments...these God moments. I’m not the only one.
These experiences we’ve had, the ones that aren't easy to explain...something felt different about the space around you. Maybe it felt a bit supernatural, unearthly and indescribably beautiful. Perhaps you noticed the hairs on your arms stand straight up and you became aware of something mighty, something majestic. Sometimes we chalk those goose bumps up to the draftiness in the room or the breeze whirling through the trees, and sometimes it really is a draft or the breeze, but sometimes...it’s not. And truthfully, I think we all know the difference.
Maybe you felt Him as you carried on with the most mundane pieces of your life; the stuff that doesn’t seem like it deserves any amount of supernaturalness; while folding laundry or washing floors. Maybe you felt Him in the supermarket...or in your kitchen while you were scrubbing the dishes. Or maybe you were primed to notice Him standing right next to you as you stood on some beautiful peak overlooking a breathtaking expanse of Earth, or on that ocean’s shore watching the waves thunder powerfully against the sand.
As I exercised in excited, joy-filled awe, I wondered how many other sweat soaked bodies were experiencing what I was. I mean honestly, if God’s in the room, could I possibly be the only one aware of him?? Or maybe he came just for me, so it could be just us...just me and him (and my elliptical).
A girlfriend of mine shared a story with me not many weeks ago about a man she knew who’d died once. This friend of hers had been pronounced dead, but after a few minutes of death his heart started beating again. He’d recounted his experience of “crossing over”. He said that while he was dead, he had a distant perspective on the world, as if he were seeing it from outer space. From his vantage point he saw thousands upon thousands of beams of light bursting from the Earth’s surface in little pin-sized points. They weren’t isolated to any one location but originating from everywhere. The beams of light were people who have a relationship with God.
So, I wondered...during my supernatural exercise/worship time, had my “beam of light” blazed brighter and stronger than usual. Were people in heaven seeing my light? In the spiritual realm, did my YMCA elliptical look like a fiery searchlight-exercise machine?? Was my light beam boring a hole straight through the atmosphere and directly into the throneroom of heaven?? Or maybe what worship creates is a lightning-like event; as we reach up towards God, he reaches back, joining his power and energy to ours in a huge flaming bolt of electricity. I don’t know…
But I have to confess...I didn’t want that workout session to end. I wanted it to last forever. It was peace and joy and hope and I needed ALL of it! Before the gym, I’d tried to uncoil my mind and my emotions from that tightly wound ball of tension but all the chaos wouldn’t stop clinging to me. I couldn’t shake it. For that morning, it was as if me and God (and that elliptical) had a destiny all our own.
I want to humbly suggest that we’ve all felt God. We know when he's there and we know when he's not. Some of us experience these moments of awareness more of than others. Some of us would rather not talk about it. Possibly there are some who would prefer to not acknowledge any of it at all. I get it, but regardless of your faith or claim to none, regardless of logic, science, education or competence, each one of us...we’ve all felt Him at least once; that unexplainable but tangible thing. We can either choose to deny it OR we can open ourselves to the possibility that there’s more in this world than we can experience with our eyes, touch with our fingers or hear with our ears. Maybe, just maybe, there’s someone we can sense but can’t see.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.