A few years ago yellow wristbands adorned the young and old alike reminding them to “Livestrong”. A product of a media effort to prop up a now defamed sportsman who was unceremoniously dethroned during his sole act of contrition while speaking to Oprah. While the story behind the meteoric rise to fame and subsequent fall are well known, the subtext is what I find so interesting. Lance Armstrong was by many measures heroic and if not for some poor choices by way of augmenting reality, would go down as an American legend. But in my mind the real story is the pervasiveness of human frailty and the reality that Livestrong ultimately failed because it was rooted in human weakness, not God strength.
The idea was simple and inspiring, you can overcome anything if you choose to be strong and courageous. Lance Armstrong of course had beaten cancer to achieve glory in cycling. Others used that example to achieve their own various levels of success and endurance. But where Lance failed is where God succeeds. Livestrong was a success because of the exploits of someone all too human. Capable of pride, greed, dishonesty and ultimately (hopefully) remorse. God’s strength is so much more powerful because God has no pride, greed, or inherent failing conditions. God does not and cannot fail, humans can.
So it is that when someone is Godstrong, they approach life in a way that is truly inspiring and powerful. The process of choosing to cast off your way of life and risk everything you “own” is frightening. I’ll admit a daily dose of misgivings and fear as we approach d-day, as it were. When you do things one way for 40 years, as in my case, suddenly changing course is not really ingrained in the human psyche. I have found to this point that no amount of human strength is sufficient. I cannot reason my way through this and most of my emotions are pointed away from this endeavor, not towards it. The times that I find myself truly excited and ready to go are when I sit calmly, breath deeply, and ask God for strength. I find comfort and resolve when I do this and this sense of peace is what I see every day in Sara. Just like lifting weights or training for a marathon Godstrong comes from practice and repetition. Sara is a pro at this constantly reminding herself, and me, that God is there for us. This doesn’t mean that she assumes that our path will be easy or laid out with confetti and roses. Instead she believes that God will provide for us what we need and that what we need may not look like what we want. That’s the trick, what we have been conditioned to want and see as good is really just that which makes us feel safe and comfortable. That does not make it bad by any stretch, but comfortable does not always challenge you to be better. Just like exercising, the only way to improve your body is through some modicum of pain. Godstrong requires challenging ourselves, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and almost always mentally. I appreciate the message of Livestrong but part of the failure of that concept was that there was no challenge inherently there. Think of it from this perspective, Livestrong is a call to essentially survive and do your best. What exactly is the challenge there? Which members of the target audience didn’t want to live? Who is actively trying to fail? Godstrong on there converse compels you to do things out of the ordinary. Put yourself in harms way to help others doesn’t sound as appealing in a television advertisement as believe in yourself and overcome adversity. God asks you to encounter adversity, embrace it, and if you don’t have it in your life now then go find it and face it head on and to believe that you don’t need to be the one to overcome it on your own but rather to channel the grace of God.
I am not strong enough to face these challenges on my own. No amount of self encouragement or belief will permit me to accomplish those things that I am called to do. But that’s the point, I don’t need to be. God asks us all to be a reflection of God’s grace on Earth. God doesn’t ask us to be God but rather reflect God’s good will and love. If you think of this reflection in terms of a mirror you get the perfect analogy. A mirror is fragile and finite. They can get fogged up easily, can be scratched and chipped. But despite those weaknesses a mirror, even when broken and shattered, can still reflect that image. God’s strength is there for us in all times of our life, when we feel perfect and when we feel broken. We don’t need to carry this weight ourselves, we just need to reflect God’s strength and love and the way will be found, the doors will open, and the grace of God will flow.