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“BEING SPECIAL” – Oct 22

October 22, 2013

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

AirmanMagazine / Foter / CC BY-NC

With one last pull of my arm, I glided to the end of the pool, my other arm extended in front of me.  Now, that was a good swim.  I had just completed 2,000 yards of swimming without stopping.  I had considered doing some shorter sets due to how I had started my day.

The days have been getting shorter, which has affected by workout routine.  The sunrise no longer quick enough in chasing the night away for me to squeeze in a morning run before I have to leave for work.  Therefore, my wife and I have returned to Jillian.  We are back to doing the Jillian Michaels 90 day Body Revolution.

Doing an upper body, weight training workout in the morning is not performance enhancing for a lunch hour swim.  My satisfaction in my 2,000 yard swim stemmed from overcoming this new workout schedule.  I felt the effects of Jillian’s super-sets, 5 laps into my swim.  I could feel the energy drain from my shoulders on every pull.  The tightness in my triceps made keeping my elbows high a challenge.  I wanted to quit at 10 laps.  I was very glad that I pushed through for another 30 laps.  I did not have a great time but that was not the point.

I was feeling pretty good about myself as I bobbed at the edge of the pool.  I was the only lap swimmer in the pool.  I shared the pool with a group of intellectually disabled (ID) swimmers who come to enjoy the pool once a week.  After a short recovery, I pulled myself out of the pool.  My upper body was shot but the benefit was that I had a pretty good pump going.

istolethetv / Foter / CC BY

I admit that I was being rather vain as I admired my muscles.  I had pretty good definition in my shoulders.  I could see a distinct diamond in my triceps and I could discern a shadow of a vein in my bicep.  The excavation of my abdominals, while still incomplete was showing the ripple of a couple ribs so that was encouraging.

I probably peacocked a little bit as I headed into the shower.  I had just got all sudded up, still enjoying vainness of my pump, when I noticed someone walking through the shower.  I was in the process of washing the soap off of my head when this interloper spoke.  The water flowing over my head prevented me from hearing him clearly but it sounded like he said something about the Olympics.  “Well that is cool, he must think I’m of Olympic quality”, is what I thought but in my heart I knew that could not be.

I swiped the water from my head with a back of the head to chin motion.  My lack of immediate response motivated my admirer to repeat himself, only louder.  This time his question echoed through the shower, “Are you in the Special Olympics?”

Lost in vanity, my immediate response was a surge of indignation rushing up my spine.  In a flash, my mind raced through all the implications of this obvious insult.  Why would this guy think I was in the Special Olympics?  He must have meant, “Am I WITH the Special Olympics” maybe a coach, but that is not what he said.  He said, “Are you IN the Special Olympics?”  Where is he going with this?  Regardless of his motivation, I squared up to my intruder in a move of unreasonable machismo.

I took one more swipe across my eyes to clear my vision as I blurted out, an incredulous “what?”  In an instant, I felt rather foolish.  Standing across from me was a man in his mid-twenties.  He was over-weight with stooped shoulders that shrunk his 6’-3” frame.  He repeated himself again, “Are you in the Special Olympics?” with an innocent and sincere face that acknowledged that he was intending to compliment me.

I laughed to myself as I said, “no.”  I asked him if he had been in the Special Olympics because I now recognized that he was part of the ID group that I regular shared the pool.  I was quickly awash in his effusion of words explaining that he indeed was a Special Olympian and that he had won several events.  I smiled at his joy of participating in the Special Olympics and realized that, for him, there was no greater accomplishment than to be a Special Olympian.  My vanity vanished in the delight of this Special Olympian as I praised him of his accomplishments.

This little experience reminded me of how much we can miss due to our vanity.  I could have dismissed this young man based on a misunderstanding of an unintended insult.  I would have missed the blessing of his joy.  He would have missed being encouraged.  We both would have lost if my vanity had won.

Vanity emerges in so many aspects of our lives:

Preoccupation with our image,
Demonstrations of strength for the sole purpose of strength,
Bound to the home with the chains of imperfect make-up,
Demanding the fashionable,
Shouting to be heard,
Spewing sarcasm to be witty,
Logging deserved praise and inadvertent slights,
Relegating hospitality to a dust layer.

What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid that someone will view our Olympic caliber efforts as “Special”?  No one can withstand the relentless pressure of public opinion.  Living for the opinions of peers is like sitting in a pressure vessel at the bottom of the ocean.  The slightest crack in our façade allows all of those feared opinions to rush in and crush a fragile and vain self-image.

Everyone will eventually succumb to the pressure.

No matter how hard I work out, age will have its way with my physic.  My hair will eventually gray and fall out.  My skin will wrinkle and sag.  My world will fall apart if it is based upon other people’s opinion of my appearance, intelligence, abilities or anything else.  If I allow people to get too close, they will eventually see that I am not perfect.

Consider what has to be sacrificed to the pressures of vanity and the fear of human opinion.

God’ opinion is so much more important than any man’s.  Therefore, it is God whose opinion we should be concerned about.  Freedom from the pressure of our peers comes when we remember that we don’t need to worry about other people’s vain opinions.

We cannot please God and man.

Everyone must pick who they will live to please.

Everyone must decide whose negative opinion they will fear.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for being so vain.  Forgive me for often letting my vanity keep me from blessing other people.  You are the one whose displeasure I fear.  Help be to remember who I am in You.  Help me to value what you are making me into more than what the world wants me to be.  My hope is in you and not the opinions of my peers.  May all I do be pleasing to you.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

6 comments

  1. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with a smidgeon of ‘vanity’. I look at it as more an appreciation of God’s work. You recognize he gave you a good body and you’re taking care of it, fine tuning it.
    When I graduated from nursing school I was 118 lbs (having gain 3 lbs in school) with a hour-glass figure (36-24-36). I never believed a nurse should be fat. It was unprofessional and set a poor example. After all, if I’m telling others how to take care of themselves, I should look the part. Maybe I was a bit too vain. I liked looking good, who doesn’t?
    Marriage followed by 3 pregnancies, hypothyroidism, and a nasty auto accident along with aging, took their toll. My figure took a nose dive as my weight climbed.
    It has actually given me a better appreciation for those in the same predicament. What I have found the funniest through all this are so many “well-meaning” people have to tell me I’m fat–duh, you think? Gee, I hadn’t noticed.
    The silliest question ever asked me was by a nurse when I was getting weighed-in for my visit. I had dropped 10 lbs. in 30 days due to being ill. She doubled checked then asked, “Are you trying to lose weight?” If I hadn’t felt so bad, my smart remark would have been, “No, I was planning to go to 300 lbs.”


  2. Thank you for the reminder, JD, that “God’ opinion is so much more important than any man’s.” God looks upon the heart of character, attitudes, and motivations (1 Sam. 16:7). That’s where my focus needs to be!


  3. Wow what a vivid illustration yet once again. It was convicting reading this thinking of my own pride that has gotten me in trouble in the past


  4. It didn’t take you long to admit that you are as you are because of how God made you. We all must live with an attitude of gratitude for God’s sovereignty and grace.


  5. Thanks for your honesty here. A wonderful reminder to take stock of who we are serving.


  6. Great post and excellent reminder to beware of vanity in our lives. God Bless!



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