If there was an image that describes many of us, it would be that of a tired man or woman on a treadmill. The treadmill that began rather slowly has begun to move faster and faster. What had been a challenging speed has now become overwhelming. If you are like many, you are doing well just to keep from falling down. You wonder at times how much longer you can hold on.
Many of us live each day as if we are on a never-ending treadmill. The treadmill goes faster and faster as we scurry from one appointment to the next. We move from one child’s piano lesson to the other child’s basketball practice. On and on it goes. Life becomes a blur punctuated by birth and death with a flurry of exhausting activity in between. Cell phones ring. E-mail piles up. Meanwhile, we wonder whether we are really living or just existing.
If you are like many people, the days, the weeks, and the months seem to pass by so quickly. Yet, there are those moments when you step off the treadmill long enough to think, to feel, or to pray. You remember again the crushing burden you are carrying. You think about the failed relationship with your daughter or son. You contemplate the business failure that eats away at your sense of self-worth.
"Does anyone else feel like me?" you wonder. After all, many people don’t seem to struggle at all — at least that is the way it appears. When you look at some of your friends, it seems that they have everything going for them. Yet, life is going fast and can get so complicated; you wonder if things will ever really be any better than this for you. Maybe part of the problem is the pace of life. Yet, I wonder if it is not much more. I wonder if life on the treadmill has a way of disguising what is at the core of the soul.
I suspect that for a lot of people being on the treadmill is one way of avoiding looking at one’s own life honestly. It keeps everything at a superficial level. They just don’t deal with their issues. Richard Foster has said:
"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people, but for deep people."
Unfortunately for many of us, we have just stopped growing, maturing, developing, etc. Instead we have grown stale and our rut just keeps getting deeper.
John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, spoke at the commencement ceremony of Stanford University on June 16, 1991. Gardner said:
I explored the question of why civilizations die and how they sometimes renew themselves, and the puzzle of why some men and women go to seed while others remain vital all of their lives . . . I’m talking about people who have stopped learning, or growing, or trying . . . I do worry about men and women functioning far below the level of their possibilities . . . As you settle into your adult lives, you cannot write off the danger of complacency, boredom, and growing rigidity, imprisoned by your own comfortable habits and opinions. A famous French writer once said, "There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives."