I enjoy watching others in a gym. There are the quiet types, pursuing their routines with unending determination. Others who are tentative in their actions, as if their uncertainties and fears permeate everything! Then there are the expressive ones, wearing their emotions for all to see, grunting, groaning, and on occasion something that resembles a scream.
I worked an elliptical machine beside one of the latter. With every stride, you could hear him breathe. At the end of his workout the quietness was punctuated by a guttural growl scream combination that was truly unnerving! I looked sideways and was amused to look at his stats on display. While he had worked hard, the numbers suggested he had not worked as hard as the sounds suggested.
As I look to my left a bit later, I saw that he had started a second routine on a different apparatus. I blissfully drifted back into my routine, Mozart concertos playing in my ear buds (not my normal music but it seem to fit the day). Fifteen minutes later, eruption number two shook the ambiance to its core. The guttural growl scream had gone up a significant notch! Even though I was fifteen feet away from him and listening to music, every hair on my body stood at attention.
The experience has stayed with him, causing me to look at my response to what happens in my life. Is my response caveman like emotions coming to life? Do I simply act as if nothing happened? What is the reasonable balance between being on the edge of control and ignoring significant milestones?
As negative as I might react to the stranger in the gym, there are times when one wants to make sure everyone knows. I think of David’s reaction – “And me? I’m singing your prowess, shouting at cockcrow your largesse, for you’ve been a safe place for me, a good place to hide.” (Psalm 59.16)
Whatever the answer is, I know it starts with paying attention to what is happening, no matter how small it might seem to others.