Archive for January, 2013

Doping Charges

Okay. Why did he do it?  This week the spotlight shined in the eyes of Lance Armstrong. Lance held more Tour de France victories that any man in the history of the race. (Notice the use of the word “held” not “holds.”)  He became a role model for people battling cancer. His name is synonymous with perseverance and endurance.

Lance ArmstrongThis week we finally heard honestly from Lance. He admitted being doped up in every single Tour win, all seven of them. It was Lance in those races, yes but he juiced up to do it.  My question as I heard his story was: Why did he do it?  Why was winning so important?  What was missing inside this man, what did he need so desperately that he would break the rules to win?  Was it fame or the approval of people cheering from the sidelines? Was it the need to be important in the world, the need to know his life matters?  Whatever it was, three or four wins were not enough.

I could be a lot more critical of Lance if I did not see this in myself.  As the story has unfolded, it reminded me of the emptiness of all of our hearts, how we are looking to be filled.  We show up in life broken and we work hard to fix ourselves.  We have to prove ourselves, to demonstrate that we are good, worthy of the life we live, strong and capable, bright and beautiful.  As Brene Brown says:

…we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.

Lance was hustling on his bike, in front of the crowd, and before the court of public opinion.  He’s been falling behind in this stage of the race for a long time.  This week he lost. Indeed, all of us can win if we find a foundation for our worth not built on the achievements of today.  That is a race we can’t win.  It leaves us exhausted and defeated.

As Augustine said:  Our hearts are restless until we find rest in you.

God is the one who gives us worth that a yellow jersey or ____________(you fill in the blank for yourself) never could in any lasting way.  Or, you can keep riding harder with the hopes that you will somehow arrive.  But, this is a race we humans have been running for a long time and without success. Hopefully, now that Lance has lost the yellow jersey, he will find the life that really is life.  Then perhaps he will be able to ride to feel God’s pleasure rather than riding to justify himself.

God’s love for Jesus provides what all our hustling never could, a value and worth that our hearts have hungered for all along. Lance is not alone in needing that.  I need it as well.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Jesus in Matthew 16:25-26

Worth Something

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Jesus (John 8:32)

photoYesterday our church staff spent the morning and early afternoon in the Wynwood section of Miami.  (If you haven’t visited it’s a real treat.  A forgotten and discarded section of Miami has been slowly transformed into an artist haven filled with visual wonder!)  We watched the movie “The Soloist” at the Miami Rescue Mission, caught lunch at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, and then took in the art of the community together.  We were tasked with a mission to look for grace—in the art, and in people’s stories.  Outside the restaurant was a black and white wall mural of a man huddling in personal pain.  The caption below read:  I used to be worth something.

Without the back-story one can’t know what happened and where the loss of value came from. Has this man experienced rejection in a relationship, failure in a career, the loss of someone or something he loves, physical sickness?  We just don’t know.  Here is what we do know.  Each human being is astoundingly special.  Each person’s parents brought 23 chromosomes to the picnic when conception took place, and based on the way they could line up a human being is the result of a one in seventy trillion possibilities.  Each person has unique features–fingerprints, retinas and voiceprints.

If only the inner voice of self-debasement could hear the voice of truth. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.   I thought of that at the sight of the mural.  But, we struggle to believe that.  We struggle to see that we are created with such majesty, and loved with such tenacity.  For we are God’s poem, scripture tells us, crafted in glory by Him.

I remarked at our Christmas eve service how meaningful the worlds of the song O Holy Night are: Long lay the world in sin and error pining until he appeared and the soul felt its worth.   This is why we need Jesus and we need grace: to see how God made us, and to see his determination to redeem us by loving us to life in Christ…for your soul to feel its worth. Yes, you are worth something.

This is what happened when Jesus appeared.  He came to show us God’s love and in his death assure us of God’s favor.  That is grace.  As we walked Wynwood, I thought this is the work of grace—for us to see our worth and to help everyone else see theirs.