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Get Me To The Gym On Time!

One Saturday morning when my three children were still young (my oldest would have been around fourteen at the time), my wife headed off to a local gym with one of her girlfriends. Bonnie drove, picking up her friend in our only car. My kids were relaxing in the living room in front of the TV when I decided I was going to go for a walk and jog.

It was a brisk cool morning, so I put on a few layers of shirts under my sweat shirt top with its matching sweat pants. It suddenly dawned on me I should hike all the way out to the gymnasium to which my wife had gone. Now, that gym lies over six miles away from my home and that is farther than I ever go. I rarely walk or jog as much as three miles, so six would be quite a stretch for me. But I didn't think it was beyond me and I figured I could ride home with my wife.

Suddenly, another thought came to me: 'Take your keys.' (Notice the use of 'your'). Alone in my bedroom, I muttered out loud, "Why should I take my keys? Bonnie's got the car. I don't even have any pockets in these sweat pants." 'Take your keys,' came the thought again. And just like that, I fetched my keys out of my jeans pocket and placed them in the big pouch stitched into the front of my sweat top.

The trek from my house to the gym falls naturally into five segments: 1)a mile and a half or so up Church St. to Hoffman St.; 2) about the same distance up to the top of Hoffman to Bancroft; 3)a half mile or so down Bancroft to Davis St.; 4) a mile or so up Davis till it empties into 'The Miracle Mile', 5) Finally, over a mile up the full length of the Miracle Mile to a side street that leads around a bend to the gym. I have measured it by car: It is about 6.5 miles from my house to that gym.

I told my kids I was leaving and that I planned on surprising their mom at the gym, then headed out the door. Soon, I was jogging on Church St. My normal pattern then was to jog and walk about the same amount. I usually did one or two blocks at a time of each. That morning was quite chilly, so I had a little extra incentive to keep moving!

It wasn't too long before I had reached Hoffman Street. Keep in mind, this is where I normally would simply turn around and head home - a round trip of a little less than three miles. Instead, that morning I proceeded up Hoffman. That really wasn't too unusual for me. Sometimes, just to mix things up, I would head up Hoffman as far as Clinton and then turn left there to head home. Clinton Street runs parallel to Church St. but it involves some hills and takes you through an area less congested than Church St.

Crossing Clinton St. that morning, and pressing on, I trekked on to the top of Hoffman St. That was when my first doubts started to creep in. It's one thing, standing in the comfort of my home, to think of doing a six mile hike on a lark just to surprise my wife for no particular reason; three miles into it on a chilly morning, and realizing that I was probably less than half way there, drained some of the fun out of the adventure.

My first thought of compromise was to quit at a donut shop at the corner of Bancroft and Davis. Mr. Donut was its name, though it has been gone a long time now. I could enjoy a donut and hot chocolate and then head home. Or, I could even try to call my wife from there and ask her to pick me up on the way home. Yet, when I got to the bottom of Bancroft a little voice inside urged me to press on. 'Keep going, keep going,' it said. And, 'Pick up the pace!' was thrown in for good measure. So I kept going, walking and jogging up Davis Street.

My next thought of compromise brought up friends of ours that lived on Davis about a mile up from the donut shop. I would be going right by their house that Saturday morning. I could stop in and say hello and tell them of my silly lark. We'd all get a good laugh at my expense, yet I would be most likely in their warm house enjoying their warm hospitality, once again waiting for my wife to pick me up.

The little voice inside my head would have none of that. As I neared my friends' home, the thought came, 'You've come too far to quit now, just keep going!" It would be quite a feat for me to hustle those six plus miles, which had been the motivating factor that got me on the move that morning. "Besides," I said to myself, "What about these keys I've been carrying?" I thought the best surprise might be to have Bonnie find me sitting in the car when she came out of the gym. I would slip into the gym, use their restroom facilities, and find a bottle of water - all without my wife spotting me. Then I'd just sit in the car warmed by the sun and spring my surprise. So, I kept going - right past my friends' house and on up to the Miracle Mile.

All along my trek the little voice in my head had been urging me on and to keep up my pace. That made perfect sense - it was chilly out and I had a long way to go. Now that I was moving along the side of the Miracle Mile, I was fully sold out to the idea of hustling along as fast as possible. The Miracle Mile in Horseheads, NY is not residential territory. There are no sidewalks along the side of the street. The speed limit is 40MPH, as opposed to the 30MPH for virtually all the ground I had covered so far. And, people generally tend to go closer to 50 here rather than 40. (I know I do.) So, this part of my journey was nothing like a leisurely stroll! I picked up the pace. Soon I had finished the last major leg of my morning road trip, and was walking on the side street that wound around to my ultimate destination, the Diamond Gym. My wife was finishing up her visit there, oblivious of my arrival.

I came around the bend and turned onto the gym's driveway. I noticed two people walking out of the front entrance: My wife and her good friend. They walked over to the first row of cars just outside the front door and stood there for several seconds, looking in the car, then at each other, and then back in the car. They were unaware of me approaching from behind them as they turned and started to walk back toward the front door of the gym. "Hey!" I called out to them. They both stopped and looked my way. I was still twenty feet or so away from them.

"What are you doing?" my wife asked. "I thought I'd take a stroll out to see you two," I replied as nonchalantly as I could. Then it was my turn to ask a question. "Where are you going?" "We were heading back inside," my wife answered, "I locked the keys in the car." Our friend's husband wasn't available to come and get them (which was probably why my wife had picked her up that morning.) Knowing her husband, he was very likely at someone's house, helping them fix, replace or rebuild something. He is very handy and was very generous with his time - a personification of the "gift of helps" (1Cor 12:28).

"Then I guess you'll be needing these," said I, as I pulled the car keys out of my pouch and jingled them. Just then, I understood: I had responded to a sudden urge to march several miles all the way out to them. I had also responded to an urge to take along a set of keys that I really didn't think I even needed. And, I had maintained an aggressive pace all the way, responding to a constant urge to keep moving and not give up. Having done all of that, I arrived, keys in hand, at the very moment my wife had discovered she needed them!

"Why would you walk all the way out here carrying those keys?" they asked me. "Honestly," I replied, "because I think the Lord knew you two were going to need them."

© Matthew Schilling November 2010

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