Strength and Beauty Are Not Opposites

“Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with magic.”

-Herman Melville

untitled-designThe above quote from Moby Dick refers to a whale’s tail, of all things, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the same could be said of God.  He’s almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the one who holds the universe in his hands.  We describe him as omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once), and omnipotent (all-powerful).  He has no equal, and there’s nothing within reason for us to compare him to.  Our minds simply cannot comprehend his wisdom, presence, and might.

But at the same time, Jesus showed us God is no power-crazed war-monger.  In Christ, God stepped down from his throne in heaven, taking the form of a servant, in order to extend his grace to us.  He showed his gentleness by not roaring in like a lion ready to devour us because of our sin, but by laying down his life as a lamb so as to take the hit for us.  His gentle gesture was the most beautiful the world has ever seen.

I love the way the wise woman from Tekoa put it for David in 2 Samuel 14:14.  “All of us must die eventually,” she said.  “Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

How much more gentle could he be?  Despite being able to easily “sweep life away,” he instead makes plans to gently reconcile us with him — now that’s beautiful.  Although we’re undeserving, he gives us a chance to be made right with him.

Like God, I aspire to be tough and tender too.  I enjoy training and competing in boxing and mixed martial arts.  I like movies like Gladiator and Ip Man.  I want to be strong and be able to protect my family from people who would try to harm them.

But I also want to be gentle in the way I speak and act toward my wife.  I want my son to know I’m not afraid to be affectionate, and that it’s okay for a man to show some emotion.  David was a vicious warrior who played the harp!  I think I’m in good company if I can both fight and enjoy a good sunrise.

So be strong and beautiful.  Be tough and tender.  They’re not the antithesis of each other.  In fact, as God has shown, there are few characteristics of a person that are more complementary!

Chasing Approval: What I Learned From “Chasing Tyson”

chasing tysonEvander Holyfield never got the credit he was due.  At least that’s the way ESPN Films’ Chasing Tyson (currently on Netflix) tells the story about the former heavyweight champ’s boxing career.

The film describes a world electrified by the phenom that was Mike Tyson.  Tyson was seen an unstoppable wrecking ball of a fighter, and between dominating his opponents and having famed boxing promoter Don King in his corner, Tyson achieved near legendary status.

Holyfield, on the other hand, was a talented athlete, but was quieter and didn’t have the swagger that Tyson and his crew had.  He was always in Tyson’s shadow, and though he wanted to face off with “Iron” Mike in the ring, their superfight was met by one delay after another, stretching out over the course of several years.

When Holyfield eventually won the heavyweight title, people largely acted as if the title had less value because it hadn’t been won against Tyson (Holyfield won the belt from Buster Douglas, who had shocked the world by upsetting Tyson not long before Tyson and Holyfield were supposed to square off).  In the years that followed, critics tried to force Holyfield to play the comparison game, as if he somehow was a lesser fighter because he hadn’t yet faced Tyson.  Nobody except Holyfield himself was willing to concede that “The Real Deal” was truly the best heavyweight in the world.  As Holyfield puts it in the film, “I’m chasing titles, I wasn’t chasing Tyson.”

The comparison game is dangerous.  Comparing ourselves to others causes us to constantly hunger and thirst for the approval of others, which can never ultimately satisfy us.

As believers in Christ, we have to constantly remind ourselves that there’s no need to work for the approval of men because we’ve already received God’s approval through the sacrifice of Jesus.  In Galatians 1:10, the Apostle Paul is blunt in saying that he doesn’t chase human approval.  He writes,

“If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Well then, that’s about as to-the-point as you can get.

Those who aspire to please Jesus cannot simultaneously try to please people.  There are too many conflicting ideals.  That’s not to say the Kingdom of God should clash with everyone all the time, just that others’ standards are not those by which we should measure our success.

Evander Holyfield eventually fought, and beat, Mike Tyson…twice. But even still, there seems to be some doubt as to who was the better fighter. After all, even the documentary about Holyfield’s career is named after Tyson! Don’t play the comparison game. You’ll only end up chasing others’ approval.