Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Lesson from Lance Armstrong

"God, I thank You that I am not like other men..."
Luke 18:11

An interesting thing happened in baseball last month.  It was time for the annual Hall of Fame voting.  There were dozens of players up for nomination, and while no one expected all of them to be voted in, no one also expected that none of them would be voted in.   

It was rather momentous.  None of the names on the ballot got enough votes for them to be included.  And it was seen by pretty much everyone to be an indictment of the "steroid generation" of baseball.   And it doesn't mean that none of those men will make it in on one of their other chances.  I think every player is automatically on the ballot starting five years after he retires.  And they stay on for more than one year ~ I can't remember how long.  So some of those men might make it in in the next few years.

But I think the people who were voting were making a statement about how they feel about the impact of steroids on the game, and whether or not those who used them cheated.

And I think we can see what that statement was.

At about the same time, another statement was being made about steroids in athletics.  That was the statement by Lance Armstrong.  His admission.  His admission of cheating, and of lying.

We all wanted to be amazed and impressed by Lance Armstrong.  He had beaten the enemy that frightens us all ~ cancer.  And he had not only beaten it, but come back strong.  Professional-athlete-strong.  Champion-professional-athlete-strong.  He gave hope, and courage and inspiration, and we all wanted to believe he had done so with integrity.

I have a friend who suffered more than most when she heard of his admission.   Many years ago, she had a friend ~ a cyclist ~ who had died suddenly.  Too young.  He had asthma, but the medication for his asthma was a banned substance, so he didn't take it.  He wanted to cycle clean. 

If he had used performance enhancing drugs, would he have been as good as Lance Armstrong?  Maybe, maybe not.  If he had taken his asthma medication, would he still be alive?  Maybe, maybe not.  We'll never know.

So my friend was angry when she realized the truth about Armstrong.  Angry that her friend had died, making what he felt was the right decision, living honestly, while Armstrong had gone on to great things, cheating.  And even though her friend had died twenty years ago, she had to deal with it in her heart all over again.

But then she heard Armstrong's explanation. And he talked about having had cancer, and how frightening that had been.  How it changed his outlook on life, and made his drive to succeed even greater.  And how maybe he had made poor decisions because of the emotional impact that that traumatic time in his life had had on him.

And it made her realize that as disappointed as she was, she was in no position to judge.  The death of her friend was a traumatic event in her life, and she had made decisions because of it.  And some of those may have been bad decisions.

We are all a product of our lives.  Our background, our parents' choices, the circumstances life throws at us... 

I can look at others' lives, but no one else is raising my children.  No one else is married to my husband.  No one else has walked the path I'm on, or come face to face with the same choices I have.  And you and everyone else in my life can say the same thing.

We find people we can look down on, sometimes, to build ourselves up.  Or we come to conclusions about others based on limited information, and our own view of life.   But we've got enough to do just trying to live our own lives as He expects.  And aren't we all grateful for mercy.

~ "Lord of hosts,
     You judge righteously" ~
Jeremiah 11:20

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