Monday, March 23, 2009

You're So Vain

I like to ride my bicycle several mornings each week for exercise and relaxation. Most often I ride on a bike path that runs along a dry riverbed not far from our house. Usually I ride on weekday mornings, but recently I’ve been riding Saturday mornings as well. On weekdays the path is mostly empty, with just a few joggers and other bicyclists. On Saturday, by contrast, the path is a very active place with numerous joggers, walkers and bikers.

Last Saturday I stopped at the end point of my ride to rest and drink some water before heading back to the house. As I stood and drank my water I noticed that in the parking lot behind me a large group of cyclists were gathering, all of them dressed identically in professional biking gear. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the minute I saw them I wanted to shrink away and hide because I was ashamed for them to see me in my humble attire. You see, I don’t have any fancy biking gear. I bike wearing ordinary shorts and a t-shirt and my ordinary sports shoes. Nothing fancy. Next to this group of serious bikers in their fancy gear I felt like the poor country cousin who shows up at the banquet, not realizing it was a formal affair. I quickly drank my water, climbed on my bike and pedaled off, hoping that they wouldn’t notice me. As I rode home feeling somewhat sorry for myself, two other bikers blew by me on the road as I huffed my way along. Before long they were far ahead of me. I felt pretty small and vowed to never go out biking on Saturday morning again.
As I have reflected on this incident the past few days, I am ashamed that I felt so self-conscious about what other people might think about my appearance. I know full well that the outward appearance isn’t what really matters. It’s the heart. But at that moment, standing there next to these well-equipped bikers, I really felt small and embarrassed. I cared too much about what they thought of me, when in fact they probably weren’t thinking of me at all. It reminds me of the old song by Carly Simon:
You’re so vain,
You probably think this song is about you.
I’d like to say that this is the only time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to others, but it isn’t. Sometimes I compare myself and I feel pretty good about the results. At other times I compare myself and feel ashamed. But I know that neither the one nor the other is good. I need to grasp with all my heart and mind the truth that the song—that is, this life—isn’t about me at all. It’s about God. The question isn’t whether I look good to others. The question is whether I am striving to live a life that brings honor and glory to God. And the wonderful thing is that when God looks at me, he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ. So although I am a vain, self-conscious, often weak person who struggles with identity and a host of other issues, God doesn’t see that. Keith Green had a song about this that I really love. Speaking from the perspective of the Father he sang:
When I hear the praises start, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart. I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me,
To me you’re only holy.
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do in me.
God himself stated it even better speaking through Paul:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17)
I don’t want to be vain, thinking that this life is about me, always worrying what other people might think of me. But although I am already a new creation, I’m still learning how to live as one. I’m thankful for grace along the journey. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll work up the courage to ride again on Saturday morning and not worry what others might think of my unprofessional attire.

1 comment:

  1. I bet none of them had legs as cute as yours.