From the cover of the Wheaties box to the cover of Vanity Fair, Bruce Jenner is a reflection of our nation's story over the last half century.
Our hearts break for this man and his family. As followers of Christ, we desire to see God's best for everyone - to see people walking in wholeness and reconciled to their Creator. In Bruce, we see a broken and hurting man who desperately needs to experience the loving arms of his Heavenly Father. And, as long as he's still breathing, there is hope. This applies to us all - thank God!
But his story is much more than simply his story. As Americans, it reveals our story.
In 1977, Bruce was recognized on the cover of the Wheaties box as an American hero for winning Olympic gold in 1976.
Today, he's celebrated on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine as an American hero for "discovering his identity as a woman."
It's a pretty stark picture of what we've become in roughly 50 years.
When we were kids, if you made the Wheaties box, you had arrived. Who didn't want to be on the cover of Wheaties? We loved wolfing down those toasted brown flakes while reading about the great exploits of Michael Jordan, Mary Lou Retton and others.
But if you would have thrown down a copy of Vanity Fair with a man dressed as a woman on breakfast tables across the country back then, it's pretty safe to say most Americans would've said the man really needed help.
So what's changed over the years?
A whole lot! But one thing, in particular, we want to highlight today is that as a nation we are allowing ourselves to be led by our feelings and not by the facts.
Feelings can deceive. Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're wrong. Our feelings must supported by facts. This is the foundation for justice, happiness, wholeness and truth. Imagine a judge not "feeling" like sentencing a convicted felon - we'd cry "Injustice!" So our feelings must always follow the facts - not the other way around.
Just because we feel something doesn't make it right. Before committing suicide, Robin Williams felt hopeless, yet he was not without hope, nor is anyone else that is still breathing on the earth.
Yet feelings are strong emotions that compel us to action. They are God-given, but they must always be held in check by His truth - by reality (what truly is), the facts.
Take anorexia, for instance. Young anorexic girls feel fat, yet it's not the truth. It denies reality. The fact is, they aren't fat and should be told so.
Is it love that says to the anorexic, "If you feel fat, then go with your gut on this - that's what you really are"? No way! That would be hateful to say such a thing. Love would say, "You're not fat, you're confused and need help. Let me help you."
So when Bruce Jenner says he feels like a woman, is it loving to say that he indeed is a woman - just because he feels that way? Where is the line here?
We are all broken and in need of God's grace. So where there is confusion in our feelings, we simply need to look to the One who created us and loves us, because He brings clarity where there is confusion.
We've all been confused at times in our lives, but thank God we don't let our feelings lead us in the midst of it. We seek the facts, our bearings, to set our feet on solid ground to get us walking toward the truth.
Jesus loves all people, but that does not mean that he loves all ideas, feelings or behaviors - especially if they deny reality and lead someone away from the truth and down a path of confusion and chaos. In the most quoted text about love in the Bible, it says love "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Love brings clarity where there is confusion by telling the truth. Although love considers feelings, love does not let them lead.
Man's way of dealing with feelings of confusion is to change from the "outside in." Take hormone pills, get plastic surgery and maybe even have a sex change - this will clarify what you're feeling. Yet it results in only more confusion.
But God's way is from the "inside-out." When Jesus - who is the truth - steps into the heart of a man, He heals his broken identity, adopts him as a son, loves him as a Father, and brings clarity to all the confusion.
As for our nation, until we move from following our feelings back to following the truth, stories like the Bruce Jenner's will continue to reveal our confusion.
As for Bruce, we pray that God brings Christians into his life who will love him enough to tell him the truth, and then come alongside him to help show him the way.
This is what Bruce Jenner - and America - truly needs.