Lance Armstrong: "Cancer taught me that pain has a reason and that sometimes the experience of losing things – whether health or a car or an old sense of self – has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers. We have unrealized capacities that only emerge in crisis ... capacities for enduring, for living, for hoping, for caring, for enjoying. Each time we overcome pain, I believe we grow."
Now the pain is of his own making and cannot be overcome through perseverance, but only through repentance. I'm disappointed. Maybe I have no right to be. I don't know Lance Armstrong. I have never met him. Why should I feel I have any right to feelings of disappointment? Because I read his book (multiple times), and I ate it up. Because I followed his story and wanted to believe him. Because he wasn't just an athlete, he chose to be a public athlete. He chose to allow people to rally around him and use him as an example, an idol. He branded himself and his brand was built on hard work, an indomitable spirit, perseverance, and an attitude that refused to embrace the victim mentality or any hint of negativity. Talk about inspirational!
The only flaw = himself. When you make yourself out to be a god, when you tell people that you went through hell and not only survived it, but crushed it under your feet and you did it all on your own merit and effort, well you better be telling the truth.
Yes, I'm disappointed in Lance Armstrong. His life and story, however, has become infinitely more valuable to me now. You see, as a mother, I would never have pointed my son to Mr. Armstrong as a mentor or hero. As someone who puts my faith and trust in Christ alone, I never have and never will encourage my child to place others on a pedestal. I will however, use his journey as a powerful cautionary tale. Right now, my son has no idea who Lance Armstrong is, but in the days ahead I will make certain that he does. I will show him video clips of Lance insisting that he never doped and have him read articles about the financial and personal pain that others were forced to endure as Mr. Armstrong kept up his charade in order to protect his own brand and image. We will sit down together and we will have conversations about why someone would lie and keep on lying, and whether or not we are capable of the same sort of deception (sadly, we are). We will discuss the danger of elevating ourselves and our accomplishments for others to take note of. And we will pray for Mr. Armstrong and we will pray for ourselves.
Revelation 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent." (ESV)
2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (ESV)
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (ESV)
Normally, living in Central Pennsylvania in November is associated with walking through crunching leaves on the sidewalks, pulling out the sweaters and sweatshirts that have been stored away since May, enjoying pumpkin whoopie pies, and going on outings with friends and loved ones to corn mazes and bonfires. This week in Central Pennsylvania, however, has been associated with grand jury indictments, firing of PSU employees, tears, riots, anger, and a pit in the stomachs of thousands of people. The pit in my own stomach has caused me to do some serious reflecting. Here is what God has taught me thus far:
1. There is a reason that the Bible refers to sin as DARKNESS and to truth and righteousness as LIGHT. Light exposes, darkness obscures. Light reveals, darkness covers. I John 1:5b-8 (NASB): "...God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." When we sin and cover it up as though we have not sinned or have no such inclinations, we are walking in darkness. When we see darkness creeping in and ask God to expose our sin and cleanse our hearts we are walking in the light. Even though we may feel ridiculously vulnerable choosing to have our sin exposed by God and dealt with, the very light He shines that makes us feel so vulnerable is actually our protection. Romans 13:12 (NASB) says, "...let us lay aside deeds of darkness and put on the ARMOR OF LIGHT." What does the armor of light protect us from? If we have to ask that question, we need only read the grand jury indictment against Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, or better yet, look back at our own lives and some of the ways we've let sin creep in and make its home in our hearts for too long and ponder the result of not allowing light (truth and righteousness) to be our armor.
2. Keep Short Accounts. This was a phrase I heard a lot as a kid, but I haven't heard it much since then. The idea of keeping our slate wiped clean and not allowing sin upon sin to accumulate without earnestly seeking God's forgiveness. I John 1:9-10 (NASB): "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us." Not asking for forgiveness on a regular basis is the same as saying we have not sinned. If we have sinned, the only fitting response is asking for forgiveness and repenting. How many days have I laid my head on my pillow and slipped into restful sleep while effectually calling God a liar by not acknowledging my sin from that day?
3. Let God Test Your Heart. I am human. How about you? Human too? I thought so. There are things we do that we shouldn't and things that we don't do that we should have done that slip off our radar pretty quickly, and meanwhile they are corrupting our hearts, and we don't notice one little bit. Only God can look into our hearts and expose things that we have managed to cover up so well that we've even fooled ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NASB): "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds." We can ask Him to search and test our hearts daily, or we can let things build up and deal with the ramifications when our secret sins end up hurting not only us, but those around us. If the situation at PSU is any indicator, the longer we let things go, the more people are negatively impacted and the greater that impact is.
4. Develop Godly Sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." Saying sorry doesn't cut it when it comes to sin. When our 10 year old son comes to us and says, "I'm sorry," we inevitably respond with, "Sorry for what?" Until we admit what we have done and why it was wrong, and truly desire to make it right (as far as is possible) and take steps to insure we don't sin in that way again, we haven't a clue what Godly sorrow is all about. We're just sorry we got caught. The next verse in 2 Corinthians goes on to detail what Godly sorrow looks like, "earnestness, eagerness to clear yourself, alarm at your sin, longing to correct it, concern, readiness to see justice done, a yearning to return to innocence." That is the kind of reaction that saves us from continuing in darkness. It doesn't alleviate the consequences of our sin, but it ultimately "leads to salvation."
5. Don't Pretend You Don't Struggle. Oh how tiring it is to keep up appearances. And how futile!!! Eventually everyone figures out that we don't have it all together... in fact, they usually figure it out before we've realized they've figured it out, so our charade becomes more and more pathetic with each passing year. James 5:16 (NASB) says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." By pretending that we don't struggle with sin, we are missing out on one of the potential factors that could heal us of that sin: the effective prayers of those fellow Believers whom we confess to!
I am sure that God has much more to teach me from these recent events, and I hope that I am able to absorb each and every lesson. Praise the Lord that we can learn from His Word and from the events around us. We don't have to walk down every dark path to see where it leads. May we be teachable and humble, and filled with grace for each other... always remembering, "but for the grace of God, go I."
JOHN 8:12 (NIV), Jesus says: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!