I remember clearly when my father first saw Lance Armstrong’s downfall coming. It was around 2003, when my dad was in the early stages of his battle with lymphoma cancer—a battle he ultimately lost four years later.
We had both just finished reading Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. As a non-Christian at the time, I was struck at Armstrong’s perseverance in fighting cancer. Whereas my dad, who was a long-time Christian, focused on a different theme throughout the book: that Armstrong’s belief in himself was what kept him alive and was the ultimate source of his success, both on the bike and off.
“To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.” Lance Armstrong
I remember my dad saying that Armstrong might have beaten cancer, but that if he was relying on his own will and might, eventually, he would fall off his proverbial bike and crash, just as all imperfect humans inexorably do.
And so it has happened, just as my dad predicted.
This week Mr. Armstrong has admitted that his strong will was no match in a fight against his desire for success and god-like status.
The Bible warns of rooting our identity in the idol of our own self. Indeed, self-idolatry in particular is perhaps second to none when it comes to human destruction.
This was so for Mr. Armstrong as he lied, intimidated, and threatened anyone who dared to challenge his self-absorbed version of the truth. And all that it got him was the ire of the world.
“At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized.” Lance Armstrong
I wish I could say that Armstrong is so wrong and I am not. But I would be deluding myself if I didn’t say that I, too, at times, struggle with focusing on success rather than on God.
The only difference between him and me is that I know I can’t live a true life without Christ and that I, alone, can’t save myself from an eternal judgment.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Once again, dad, you were right and I was wrong. I wish I had listened to you more often.