I have been thinking of the tragic story of Lance Armstrong and the lessons his story can teach men. As many of you know, he granted Oprah Winfrey a two hour interview, in which he talked of his “fall from grace.” Armstrong, who overcame cancer and won seven Tour de France titles, which make him one of the most successful athletes in the world, confessed to Winfrey that he had been using illegal performance enhancing drugs his entire career. He admitted that he had falsely accused people of lying when they suggested that he had been doping, and that he had been taking the exact substances the U.S. Anti-doping Agency accused of him of using. After finally losing the legal battle against the ADA last year, Armstrong was stripped of all his Tour de France titles, he was banned from the sport for life, and has lost millions in sponsorship deals. That is quite a public fall from grace.
In his interview with Oprah he admitted that he had lost his way. “I just think it was about the ride and losing myself, getting caught up in that, and doing all those things along the way that enabled that” he said. “The ultimate crime is the betrayal of those people that supported me and believed in me.” In my opinion, as I watched the second interview, Armstrong was the most vulnerable when he had to tell his 13 year old son, “Don’t defend me anymore. Don’t.” While others might focus on whether he was fully repentant or not, I want to focus on what he called “the ride.”
As men we all can get caught up in our own “ride to success.” While it might not be as dramatic and slick as that of Armstrong, we as men, have that built in competitive nature that drives us to be successful in the eyes of others. We hate failure, disappointment and especially a well-placed rebuke to our vision of success. Let me say to you men from painful personal experience as a “professional Holy Man” who wanted desperately to be seen as “good” that your ego hates reality. The ego is an impostor and a usurper. While we need substantial ego strength to navigate life, the ego is not to be the CEO of our life. It was never meant to be in charge. It can not handle reality. The man with a big ego will get more brittle and eventually crack, under the pressure to face reality. Lance Armstrong, when he was caught, finally began to crack. I believe the interview, was a means for him to begin to face reality, by share a little of who he really is. He admitted he had a long ways to go, in facing his inner demons. His whole life was a lie.
Men, don’t let your ego help you avoid reality, causing your life to be a lie. Your “ride” will leads you away from reality. Reality is the truth of who we really are before God: remember – the good, the bad and the ugly. God loves you right there in your reality, with all its darkness and shame. Don’t pretend. Listen to your spirit. Allow the Spirit of God to fill you with his love and light. Allow your soul to be open and surrendered to the Spirit of God. Allow Jesus, who loves you deeply, to take you by the hand and bring you home, like the prodigal, coming home to his father. The son came home in all his shame and sorrow. But is was finally home, to where he belonged. This is ultimate reality – being at home with God.
I confess the truth about myself is that I am: 1) A forgiven sinner 2) a sinner who is beloved and 3) one who is being transformed by the Spirit of Jesus. This confession, both private and public, has brought me authenticity and freedom to simply be me. Men, I invite you to let Jesus into those frightened, insecure places in your soul. Acknowledge to yourself and to God, that you no longer desire your ego to be the CEO of your ride. My sense is that there are men reading this blog, that need to surrender to the real CEO, who is Jesus working in our spirit and soul, helping you to become who you always were meant to be. So give up your ride, and surrender to the one who knows you and love you unconditionally.