The woman on the treadmill steps off and begins an arm workout, so I ask if she is finished with the treadmill, to which she politely responds yes and I jump on, preparing to finally finish my intended 4 mile day. This sweet lady strikes up a conversation with me, nothing out of the ordinary, surface friendly and simple. This conversation continued, from what there is to do around Austin, where good/safe places to workout are, etc. Then I find myself telling her where I go to church, the things I'm involved in there and why I love Fellowship [my church home in Liberty Hill, TX...www.fellowshiplh.org.)
Already, I'm gonna give a quick AMEN for talking about Jesus with a total stranger. LOVE when that happens! But it continued. I learned that a very sad and difficult situation had lead her to move to Texas, alone for the first time in her life, away from her friends, her family...and even away from the job she'd held. Loss in her family, loss in her heart. It seems the adage "when it rains it pours" was relentlessly proving it's truth in her life. I learned, from a smiling face of faith, how scared she was. How she'd leaned on her faith often to find herself still doubting. Questioning how things could possibly get worse, and how the God she had full faith in didn't seem to be fixing all the needs she was laying on Him. I learned that she has two children, 18 & 22, in college. I learned that she has a precious, precious heart that is entering into a stage in her journey with no answers, no easy or quick fixes. My positive nature continued to try and find the words that would lend her some form of comfort. We talked football, Texas, college & weight loss. We talked bands and venues, husbands and children, singleness and relationships. We even talked about beef, butchering our own cows, and how deer meat tasted. Even the non-Jesus related points of the conversation seemed to be a beacon of light in the gym, a sharing of much needed fellowship with another woman. Yet we continued to circle back to faith, God, plans, life, tribulations and hope. I stood on a still treadmill until, finally, I just sat my bottom down on it, knowing this conversation was more important than any run I'd ever take. For over 2 hours we sat, two strangers brought together by a force stronger than ourselves, brought together by our good intentions of healthy living, in the middle of the night sitting on a treadmill and a weight bench. And we talked about God.
I'm not someone with a call to ministering, with a strong knowledge of the bible, or even a plethora of scriptures in my back pocket, readily available on a moment's notice. I didn't know what answers to give to the questions in her eyes, all I had was a smile and a conversation. I was equipped with my faith and my perspective. I told her she was already on my prayer list just a few minutes into the conversation. And before she left, I told her I wasn't sure where it had come from, but I always liked the saying "The will of God will not take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you." I told her I believed that, with all my heart. She smiled and told me that she liked that, and would remember it. We exchanged names and numbers and the assurance that we would see each other again.
I can only hope I allowed myself to be even the smallest of tools in God's design, that maybe one smile brought to her face would be even a small comfort. I was humbled by His timing, by His ability to keep me in a place for hours that I'd intended to be in for 30 minutes. I was humbled also by my annoyance and impatience, all the while I had no idea I was really waiting for the introduction to a God woman who needed just to talk. I was humbled by her quiet strength, a strength I'm not even sure if she's aware of herself. And, if you're reading this my friend, I am so glad God put us in that room together last night, because your courage and faith are a true testament to Christ Love.
There are many wonderful things I feel and take from this story, and I hope y'all can too. It's awesome that in this fitness journey, the most important trip I took to the gym had nothing to do with exercise.
Faith, Love & Sweat,
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God,..."