Aware of the devilish and awaiting the heavenly, I often overlook a simple matter: Our mortal soul is a remarkable thing. Lance Armstrong's battle and victory over cancer, his well-documented racing comeback, and his unfathomable 7 consecutive Tour de France wins is a moving saga, reminding me that courage and struggle are profound human virtues.
Lance's first book, It's Not About the Bike, is not just for dedicated athletes or survivors of the disease. For the race in which we find ourselves is really a metaphor for life; it is not limited in scope to sports or sickness. In fact, it's a human race - full of tragedy and disappointment, surely - but buoyed by triumph and celebration. Armstrong's perspective is a crucial part of the story of the human spirit and I appreciate his candor in sharing it. It inspires me to dig deep and work through some of my daily and often mundane struggles.
But there's more to this story. I pray that Lance will one day experience the next chapter, or sequel, and taste true victory in and through Jesus Christ.
After reading this inspiring book, I get the impression that Armstrong knows that death and defeat don't deserve the victory lap. Yet in life's race and at this point in his personal tour it seems he believes that the best we can hope for is to confront death "straightforwardly, armed with nothing but courage." (p. 272) In the final analysis, any triumph we experience is due to a reliance upon the self.
But if ultimately, in this dangerous race through mortality, it is simply a matter of standing firm in the face of adversity, then I fear our hope is built on something less than lasting. In the end, death wins. Yellow jerseys fade. Courage expires. Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (from Ecclesiastes 1.2)
Except the eternal. This is the victory that Jesus offers. Life now and life eternal. Yes, as Armstrong states,
"People die. That truth is so disheartening that at times I can't bear to articulate it. Why should we go on, you might ask? Why don't we all just stop and lie down where we are? But there is another truth, too. People live." (pp. 4, 5)Again, this part of the story - our pursuit of life - is an inspiring story that he tells fairly well. And yet I long for Armstrong to keep reading, keep listening for the rest of the story. The message that, not only do people live, but people Live. This triumph does not rely on self or courage or grit or luck. It comes as a gift, one that can't be earned, for it is a victory over Death that has already been won for us by Jesus Christ.
Maybe I'll be able to talk with Lance about this someday. He already knows it's not about racing; I just want to tell him that it's really about Life.
© 2005 Lyndon Perry
Permission granted to reprint this article.