Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, & Unicorns

All of us want to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

We want something that seems too good to be true, but true enough to believe.

Typically this is because we need something to distract us from our seemingly boring lives.  Let’s face it, no TV crew is going to follow you or I around while we get in our 1998 Honda Accord, sit in bumper to bumper traffic for 90 minutes, sit at our cube for 8 hours doing TPS reports, drive back in 2 hour traffic, pick up White Castles, and then go home to feed our cat.

Not very riveting TV to say the least, except maybe to see what those White Castles are going to do you in about an hour.

No, we need the mythical to lift us out of our average world and into someone else’s amazing world.  Now, the difference between getting caught up in a sitcom and getting caught up in an athlete or actor’s life is that we know the sitcom has studio audience, but the actual person could really be doing what we see and that’s exciting.

It’s exciting until the bubble pops.  Until the veil is lifted.  Until the truth comes out leaving us with this empty feeling of betrayal.

Lance Armstrong was bigger than cycling, bigger than cancer, and bigger than life.  A 7-Time Tour De France winning, testicular cancer stomping, good looking, smooth talking philanthropist who seemed to want to help people more than help himself.  He had a quiet arrogance that was magnetic especially when people doubted his abilities.  We cheered for him and raised our yellow LIVESTRONG bands proudly in solidarity.  Then in October 2012 a small leak seemed to be punched in his suit of armor when he was hit with a lifetime ban in cycling and stripped of his accolades.  However, he stood by his story and kept his defense which gave hope that it could still be true…until January.  On January 17, 2013 the bubble was detonated and finally the truth that the superhuman feats he accomplished were just that.  No human could do what he did without help, without cheating, and without lying.

Manti Te’o had a fairy tale story like few we’ve seen.  He was the good looking, Hawaiian, middle linebacker for the undefeated Notre Dame, and Heisman Trophy finalist.  He was the emotional leader of the Fighting Irish not only for his athletic ability, but for what he overcame in just one year.  In the span of 1week Manti not only had to deal with the death of his grandmother but also the loss of his leukemia battling girlfriend days later.  The nation hung on every tear filled word and we watched and Catholic and Protestant alike cheered for Manti.  Then the illusion burst.  We found out that the girlfriend we mourned so painfully alongside Te’o was nothing more than an internet hoax and sheepishly we snapped back into reality.  Duped again.

We desperately wanted these and countless other examples to be true so that maybe for once the good guy could win.  That maybe the impossible could be possible, and we feel cheated when it turns out not to be true.

It almost feels like when I told my 3 year old daughter unicorns weren’t real.  The look of shock and dismay was hard for this to daddy to handle, but it needed to happen in fear she would start jamming toilet plunger handles into our golden retriever’s forehead and riding him off the deck in hopes he’d fly.

But whether it’s sports heroes or unicorns we all are in search of something to fill our missing void.  We are in search of something earthly to fill that which only the spiritual can fill.

Paul gives us great direction when it comes to being careful of being overwhelmed and consumed by the “too good to be true” around us.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Instead Paul gives Christians another direction to look instead of the unbelievable around us.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2

The only thing that should blow our minds and completely intoxicate us is the love of Christ.  The fact that a sinless Jesus would willingly and lovingly take on the tortures of the cross for you and me is staggering.  He and He along is worthy of our gaze and amazement because it is only Jesus that will not disappoint or let us down.

So don’t be surprised when our heroes let us down, but also don’t be surprised when Jesus never does.

The rock of our faith isn’t going anywhere.

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