A Sermon Somewhere: Treadmills, Super Heroes and Baby Monitors


There is an old preacher’s joke that goes, “I don’t know where but there is a sermon in there somewhere.”  This series builds off of that by trying to find the sermons hiding beneath our everyday experiences.  .  .and failing miserably.

Last Spring my church had a yard sale.  Someone donated an old, narrow, beat up treadmill from the ’70s.  It shakes when you run on it.  It’s top speed is only 8 miles per hour.  The incline is controlled by a crank and the display is battery operated.  Surprisingly, nobody bought it.  So it is now in my garage.

The worst thing about running on a treadmills is that you can never forget that you are running on a treadmill.  For the 1 minute or 5 or 30 or 60 minutes, you are constantly aware that you are running on a treadmill.

So I hate treadmills, but I hate feeling out of shape more.  And with two toddlers, an inch of ice on the ground and a town without sidewalks, running outside is out of the question, even with our $300 jogging stroller.  So lately I have been reluctantly facing the wicked treadmill on the afternoons when I get my kids to nap at the same time.

It isn’t really so bad, as long as I commit to running only thirty minutes.  I take the baby monitor with me so I can hear if one of the kids wake up.  I didn’t replace the batteries in the treadmill display so there is no read out to taunt me with how long I haven’t been running.  I also don’t start a stopwatch.  Instead I set a timer for ten minutes and thirty seconds.  Then I hide the timer.

After it goes off the first time, I tell myself “awesome, it has been ten minutes all ready!”  The statement is incredibly untrue as the ten minutes have been neither “awesome” nor “all ready.”  Still I lie to myself in the hopes that saying it makes it true.  It hasn’t worked yet.

On the second beep I take a short break.  I drink some water, check on the kids and with great mental fortitude, start running again.  Meanwhile I watch CW’s “Arrow” on my tablet and try to get intrigued by the plot.

It is remarkable that 42 minutes of television is no time at all when I sit on the couch.  But when I run on a treadmill, every scene break feels like the show should be over all ready and, in turn, my run.  For the record, on “Arrow,” scene breaks happen every thirty seconds.

On Monday I was running on the treadmill and hating every second, every scene break and every timer beep.  I had decided before the run began that I was going to go 4 timer beeps that day, which would give me a time of 42 minutes, which is how long Arrow lasts.

My internet was running slow and after every thirty seconds of Arrow, the show buffered for an indeterminate amount of time.  I grew to appreciate the buffering because it broke up the time.  I picked up halfway through an episode I hadn’t finished yet.  So after 20 minutes, only 5-10 minutes had passed on the show.

I ran the third ten minute increment by watching the climax ten seconds at a time.  This climax was like all the other.  The Green Arrow was in a warehouse, getting his butt kicked by a villain.  In this episode, the villain was a super powered soldier.

The show would buffer, then the soldier would kick Arrow.  It would buffer again and return to the Arrow being thrown into a bunch of crates.  For the record, those crates and that warehouse appear in every Arrow fight scene, just like the nightclub from “Alias.”

The show would buffer again and when it came back, Arrow would be punched in the face.  It would buffer for two minutes and Arrow would dodge a left hook only to be hit by a right jab.  It would buffer.

My timer went off for the third time and I was done with the whole thing.  Thirty minutes was it for the day.  I was breathing heavy.  My hands were cold but my chest was warm.  Sweat was pouring off of me into my eyes.  And I was sick and tired of running on a treadmill while watching the black screen say, “Buffering” in that Netflix font.

I turned the treadmill off and stepped away.  I took some deep breaths and glared at my own super powered nemesis, the treadmill.  I felt guilty and wimpy for chickening out 10 and a half minutes early but there was no part of me that wanted to run again.

Arrow was still buffering.

I leaned down to touch my toes and as I did the show came back on.  Arrow was lying on the ground, giving up his battle with the soldier who was about to deal the finishing blow.  As the bad guy’s foot came down in slow motion, a hallucination beckoned Arrow to get up and try again.

Triumphant music filled my garage.  Arrow rolled out from under the villain’s foot.  The foot landed on the hard concrete and Arrow jumped to his feet.  His face tightened in fierce resolve.  The orchestra music played faster and louder.  The bad guy lunged and Arrow dodged.

Suddenly it occurred to me.  If Arrow, a completely fictional character following all the stereotypes of his genre, could fight off the doubt and pain to find the resolve to roll to his feet and conquer the super soldier, then certainly I, standing in the middle of my cold garage with a racing heart and an overtaxed mind, could step back on that treadmill, crank the speed lever to full and run 10 and a half more minutes.

My shoulders rose.  My face tightened to match the Arrow’s resolve.  I shook my fist at the treadmill.  I grabbed my timer and reset it to 10:30.  I stepped onto the treadmill and turned it on.  I started the timer and hid it.  As the treadmill picked up speed, my strides grew longer and my arms swung with confidence.

10 seconds later, as Arrow began pummeling the bad guy, the triumphant music stopped.  The screen went blank and was replaced with the “Buffering” sign.

I tried not to care and ran for 10 more seconds until the baby monitor filled the garage with the hungry screams of my recently woken son.

That was that.  I turned the treadmill off and went to get him before he woke his sister up.

And I don’t know where but there has to be a sermon in there somewhere.

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