Is it just me, or does getting older increase the sensitivity of one’s back to heat and cold? When I was a young fella, the heat and cold didn’t bother me. These days, the slightest chill in the air will run down my back and set my whole body to shivering. If the mercury (an archaic term used to describe a thermometer that measured air temperature) tops 100 degrees here in California, my back sweats like the proverbial pig.
And by the way, what happened to the long-ago magic of summer that set in after the last day of school, when each morning was filled with the promise of adventure in the outdoors? As a lad I enjoyed the freedom of riding bikes all over town, playing baseball, fishing in little streams, flagging down ice cream trucks that prowled the neighborhoods, swimming at the community plunge (and accusing my compatriots of peeing in the pool), gorging on homemade potato salad doused with paprika, laying on the floor under the swamp cooler (an archaic term used to describe a machine people used to cool their homes). Yep, those were the glory days of summer. Funny, I don’t recall sweating as a child during the summer, though I must have since mom insisted I take a bath (an archaic term used to describe a method people employed to wash their body) every couple of days.
People in the West often say: “Sure it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” Yeah, dry heat doesn’t make you feel any more comfortable when the sweat gushes from your body like a lawn sprinkler. Dry heat my . . . well, you get the picture. But despite my growing sensitivity to temperature extremes, I still love much about summer. Is there a spiritual lesson here? Maybe it’s that summer, despite its discomfort, is a blessing from God. It’s a season for growth and spending more time outdoors in God’s cathedrals.
There is something soothing and healing in a summer breeze rustling the leaves above your head. Summer can be a time of extreme activity or disinclination to activity, without the guilt. The magic of summer is still there, we just have to take time to experience it. Go camping. Go fishing. Go to a strawberry festival. Go swimming at the lake. Go to a baseball game. Explore the county fair. Have a glass of cold ice tea after mowing the lawn. If you happen to be in Northern California, drive to the redwoods where you can sit on a bench in a grove of massive trees that have been alive since Christ walked the earth, where I promise you will feel closer to God. Or go to the mountains. Go to the ocean. Go to the desert. God is there, especially in summer. He loves to see his people enjoy His handiwork and the simple pleasures that endure.
Was anyone surprised by Lance Armstrong’s confession about cheating at cycling? (If Oprah Winfrey could not tug it out of him, who could?) The problem of cheating has dogged humanity since the beginning. Remember that Jacob cheated by impersonating his older brother, Esau, to get his father’s blessing and birthright. Today we might not think of cheating as one of the more serious moral issues, but God does. In Deuteronomy 25:16 it says, “All who cheat with dishonest weights and measures are detestable to the Lord.” Ouch! I don’t cite this verse to make Lance Armstrong feel bad or to sound morally superior (I’m not even morally superior to my Border Collie, and he’s a miscreant), but to point out that something sinister occurs when people cheat.
Proverbs 16:11 says, “The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards of fairness.” This Proverb is for all who make rules, follow rules, and enforce rules. If we don’t accept that God is the ultimate author of fairness and his standards are much more important and perfect than our notions of fairness, we are doomed to compromise fairness to meet our own desires. Granted, Armstrong may have been competing on what he perceived as a level playing field while doping because most of the other top competitors were doping, but the ethical waters certainly got muddied. And people got hurt in the process.
God knows it is dangerous for flawed humans to think that ethics, morality and fairness are contrivances that society can create and manage for the sake of having a smooth-running society. If a society is to survive and thrive, its people must hold to the belief that there is a moral God who cares about our decisions and actions. Any standards of fairness without the foundation of God are ephemeral. In other words, ethics and fairness are not important because societies can’t survive without them (though that is true), they are important because they are part of God’s character.
Fortunately for Lance Armstrong, and all of us, Psalm 51:17 says: “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, or God.”
Hopefully, Lance Armstrong has started the journey towards a broken and repentant heart. The thing he will need to watch out for is time. As time passes, he will likely desire to move forward and get on with life while people and other forces will want to keep dragging him back to his painful mistakes. It will be challenging to maintaining a broken and repentant heart until he weathers all the storms ahead and comes to the place where God desires to take him. Lance Armstrong can be a better man. But it can only be accomplished with God’s help. Maybe that’s the lesson for Lance Armstrong: this is one race he can’t win on his own. It is a truth that applies to all of us when we stumble.