Gloria virtutem tamquam umbra sequitur.
My son has a huge cardboard box full of trophies that still sits in a closet in my house. Now in his thirties, he values them not at all. It’s funny, but even back when he was a kid, they didn’t mean all that much to him.
Except a few. The ones that actually were given for accomplishing something had a place of honor on his dresser. The participation trophies? Relegated to the closet.
I will freely admit it. I may have been part of the reason for his disdain of the you-matter-because-you-showed-up awards. I never vocally disrespected them, but I did praise the hard work which went into earning the championship team awards, and the Best in Class plaques.
Praise should be given when praise is earned. Accomplishment earns a reward.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am an encourager. Atta-boys and way-to-give-it-your-best-shot messages are important, even essential, in the development of a child. If all they live with is high expectations, without support, they become bitter and discouraged. But, a pat on the back is not a trophy.
Encouragement is not glory.
The Apostle, my namesake, was clear in how he put it. In a race, everybody runs the best they can, but only one person gets the glory—the trophy. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
In encouragement, no one could fault the Apostle. Always, he built up his readers, coaxing them to reach new heights, but in this instance, he was blunt.
Run so you can win.
All of life, every part of it, takes place on the race course. It’s not a dash—not a challenging five kilometer run—not even a half-marathon. As exhausted as it makes me to contemplate it, the race is more like an Ironman Triathlon, only longer.
Swim nearly two and a half miles. Make equipment/clothing adjustments and hop onto your bicycle. Ride one hundred and twelve miles. Yes. One hundred and twelve. Make whatever wardrobe changes are necessary. Run just over twenty-six miles.
The whole course. If you want to win, you must run the entire series of races. They’re all part of the whole. Then and only then will a winner be handed the prize.
What’s that? Oh. You don’t read Latin. Neither do I, if it comes down to it. Let me try again.
Glory follows virtue as if it were its shadow.
As if it were its shadow.
Imagine. You’re in the race, swimming the first leg of the course. Two and a half miles, you have battled. Victory is yours! The crowd waiting at the water’s edge goes crazy with adulation as you wade out of the shallows, well ahead of the closest competitor.
Glory! They love you! What an accomplishment!
You plow into the crowd, high-fiving and fist-bumping as you go. Basking in the glory—glory you earned for yourself—you relax and exult in your accomplishment.
What’s that? What do you mean I’m not finished yet? I won, didn’t I?
Of course, you understand that it cannot be. One leg is not the entire race. While you were beguiled by the praise and glory of a partial victory, others have gone on ahead to complete the course.
Enamored by the shadow—glory—you turned away from the task at hand. And, just like that, the glory has disappeared.
Just for a moment, will you look with me at the picture Cicero has drawn with his words? If it helps you may even want to glance at the photo that accompanies these thoughts.
Shadows follow behind. As we walk toward the source of light, the shadow follows. It never precedes us. Never.
Glory only follows if we continue in virtue.
It almost seems cruel, doesn’t it? We achieve, but we have no time to enjoy the reward.
Can I tell you a secret?
Glory was never our goal. Never.
That’s our goal, always before us. Righteousness.
As we follow closely after God though, His glory will be evident—to those looking on. He himself upholds us. For His Glory.
It stays only as long as our faces are to the Light, pursuing the prize. Turn to revel in the moment and it is lost.
Face to the sun, we keep running—or swimming—or riding.
Face to the Sun.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:8 ~ NKJV)
Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!
Whoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Ironman.
(Commander John Collins, USN ~ founder of 1st Ironman Triathlon ~ 1978)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.