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When heroes fall, remember they are still human

“Why, Lance?”

That’s the question lots of folks — both avid cycling fans and non-fans alike — are asking in light of the International Cycling Union’s recent stripping Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banning him from cycling for life.

As a cycling enthusiast and rider myself for 10+ years, I’ve stood in awe of this icon in cycling, both for his remarkable accomplishments and also having come back from death’s door in his battle with cancer. So, when I heard the news of the IOC’s actions, my heart sank within me—for who of us wants our “heroes” to have feet of clay or be less than we’d envisioned them to be?

The answer is “None of us.”

We all want someone to look up to … someone who’s larger than life … and wows us with their abilities, whether physical, mental, artistic or otherwise.

Yet, in our heart-of-hearts we know there’s no Superman in life, who’s able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, fly through the air at supersonic speeds or have bullets bounce off his chest. Neither are there any Tarzans who swing through the jungle on a vine, beckoning the wild animals to come to his aid as he battles evil men and rescues Jane just in the nick-of-time.

No “heroes” — every last one of them — are still human. With human frailties and foibles. Humans who “fall short” of the iconic persona that we impose on them.

And, when it comes to light, as in Lance’s case, that they’re not what we envisioned/wished for them to be, we’re disappointed. Or disillusioned. Or, bitter, as in the case of IOC president, Pat McQuaid, who said “Armstrong deserves to be forgotten.”

Pretty strong words, wouldn’t you say?

Most assuredly.

And, some would add a hearty “Amen! Serves him right! What goes around comes around!”

Yet, maybe, just maybe, there are more who, like me, who feel sad for this Texas-born athlete, whose father abandoned him at age two. It’s reported that Lance has refused to meet with him to this day. And, after his mother remarried, Lance also didn’t get along with him and hasn’t had any contact with him in years.

So, could it be that what drove Lance to do what he did—whether trying to be superhuman in athletics or resorting to illegal blood-doping and steroids—was his feeling of being abandoned and forgotten as a young boy? Could it be that such hollow emptiness in every overachiever’s heart, regardless of the venue, is what drives him/her to be “the best,” regardless of what it costs?

What’s equally sad is the reaction of folks like Pat McQuaid, whose crass comments at Lance’s demise reveals an arrogant, condescending, holier-than-thou attitude. Although we should never condone conduct like Lance’s, neither should we condemn him—for there’s only One Whose qualified to judge and condemn us.

And, it’s not us.

Instead, as someone once said, “He Who knows us best, loves us most.” Instead of giving us what we deserve, He gives us what we need when we come to Him in simple faith and heartfelt repentance (Romans 8:31-39).

Here’s hoping Lance will come to realize that. And, here’s hoping that we, too, will realize that all of us—ALL of us—“fall short of what God wants us to be” (Rom. 3:23).

May we be slow to idolize human heroes, for they will always fail us. But, thankfully, there’s One Who’ll never abandon us and always shows us Grace and Mercy as we entrust our lives to Him. Amen and amen.

To contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” write him at P.O. Box 582, Coushatta, LA 71019 or e-mail him at pressingon@hotmail.com.

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