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Slow Learner

By my age, you’d think that I would learn. But apparently I’m a slow learner. Only classes in Hard-Knock University seem to make enough on an impression to drive home the lesson. It all started with a routine that I’ve repeated many times before. But this time it didn’t turn out quite the way I expected.

I had hopped onto the treadmill to begin my regular 5:25 a.m. exercise session. Something to get the circulation moving after my time of devotions and before I started the work of the day. I usually watch the local TV news while running on the treadmill. Takes my mind off the aching joints and the tickling drops of sweat running down my back. Makes me feel as though I’m not wasting my time or running hard without getting anywhere. But that morning the volume on the TV was too low for me to hear clearly over the whine of the treadmill motor and the pounding of my feet on the belt. And I realized that someone had left the remote on the couch.

That had happened before. Or I had thought of a writing idea or something that I had to do. Rather than forget (and that happens a lot lately), I had often hopped off the treadmill, written down whatever it was that I didn’t want to forget, and hopped right back onto the treadmill without missing a beat. It was almost second nature to me by this time. So I thought nothing of hopping off and fetching the TV remote. But this time the treadmill was going faster. Much faster. And I didn’t think. I merely hopped back on as I always had done.

Suddenly, I was down on my left knee. The soft rubber belt of the treadmill had transformed itself into a belt sander and was chewing off skin right down to the meat. Then I flew off the back end of the treadmill and hit my rump and, as I tried to rescue myself, my wrist. And the insensitive belt kept going.

I extricated myself as quickly as I could and assessed the damage. A 3×2-inch rectangle on my knee was a bloody pulp and hurt like crazy. I could feel the pain in my rump and wrist, but the knee pain overshadowed those injuries. It didn’t, however, overrule the embarrassment I suddenly felt. I could hear my wife running up the stairs to see what had happened. She had just gotten out of her shower, which is directly beneath the treadmill, and she had heard–and felt–the tell-tale sound of trouble. Half-clothed, she came running. I hated to tell her what had happened.

As I’ve recuperated, I’ve had time to reflect on the incident. I was doing something that I knew better than to do. But I had violated the rules of treadmill safety many other times and nothing had happened. I knew what I was doing. I was young and agile enough to hop off a moving treadmill and hop back onto it with the greatest of ease and gracefulness. I was careful. Nothing would happen. Accidents on treadmills happen only to other people, those who don’t know what they’re doing. Until that day.

Oh, I’ll be more careful from now on! I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve recognized the fact that I’m perhaps not quite as agile as I thought I was. It won’t happen again. Or will it? Knowing myself as I do, I suspect that one day–after having been really careful for a few weeks–I’ll suddenly think while running on the treadmill of something I need to do or get or write down, and, without thinking, I’ll hop off, do what needs to be done, and hop right back on again. I’ll tempt fate yet again, thinking that I can handle it. And, no doubt, I will–a few times. But, eventually, I’ll take another fall. Unless I discipline myself not to do so.

More importantly, I thought about the bigger picture and the bigger lesson for me from this incident. The children of Israel got on a treadmill after they got into the Promised Land. They became distracted and sidetracked by the events of life and became ensnared in the idolatry of the Canaanites around them. Presuming upon the grace and goodness of God, they fell into the sins of the world around them. And God punished them. They cried out to Him for deliverance, and He raised up judges to rescue them from their oppressors. They enjoyed peace for a time but then fell back into their sins. It became a vicious cycle: sin, judgment, repentance, deliverance, peace, and then sin again.

Am I any different? How often do I run on the treadmill called life, oblivious to the dangers of my actions, and have to learn the hard way to beware of presumption and negligence? Oh, more times than I want to admit! You too?

We’ve all, no doubt, seen the video clips of people on treadmills and how things suddenly go wrong, sending them flying off the back or stumbling around. It’s funny when it’s not you–not so much when it is you! Why must we learn the hard way?

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