I need to write. I have a blog. Just for those of you wondering why this post will not contain any new adoption news. I have none. We are waiting. And just when we think we are done waiting…more waiting :).
No, I need to write about something else. To get my thoughts out on paper and watch them become cohesive…maybe. I need to write about reputation, and something bigger and more encompassing than reputation…character.
I came across a post on Facebook the other day that characterized the two as follows. “Character is who a person really is, Reputation is just what others think he is.” As I began to think on this, I realized that most of us value our reputation over our character…at least I have, up until now. It took me a little bit to admit it. I wanted to think that developing my character meant more to me then working on my reputation, until someone brought up something that happened last year that I was less than proud of. Truth be told, this incident had worked together for good to develop my character, but when it was mentioned by someone who I had no idea even knew about it, I felt concerned for my reputation. I wanted to clear myself, set the record straight, make sure the person knew that I was just as great as they had thought that I was…but deep down I knew that I had simply needed a lesson in character and God had given it to me. I felt God’s loving voice say, “Candace, would you have saved your reputation at the expense of your character?” And this is the real me, “Why yes, God, I would have. I would have spared myself any embarrassment at all costs.” Thank God that He doesn’t spare us embarrassment at times! Thank God that He doesn’t let us stew in our issues unaware! Thank God that He cares much more about character than our reputation.
This was my first clue that my reputation has become an idol in my life…that my people pleasing behavior is sin…that I fear man more than I fear God. Not that reputation is a bad thing. We should maintain a good reputation with most people, but that reputation should be an outworking of true character… not protected at all costs so that we can get warm fuzzies about what society thinks and says about us. I was reminded again today as it became necessary for someone to address certain failings of mine. I found throughout the conversation that my main concern was not to correct the failings, but instead to make sure that I came out looking perfect. Because God had already pointed to this reputation issue in my life, I was able to handle this situation with a much better perspective than usual. But it still cut deep that someone might think something about me that was probably completely true, but I didn’t want them to think. And as I was stewing about it afterwards and wondering why in world this stuff gets to me so much, I was asked… “Are you more concerned with your reputation or your character?” And because God knows the answer, He followed up with.. “Are you willing to hurt to change it?”
When I stand before the throne one day, it will not matter one bit what anyone thought I was. I won’t be able to call witnesses to the stand or obtain reference letters. It wouldn’t matter anyway, because the Lord looks directly into our hearts. Every day that we live, He sees the thoughts and the intents that we harbor, whether knowingly or unknowingly. He puts opportunities in front of us to change that sometimes feel like a curse, because He knows our potential. He knows what He created us to be. He knows how much better our life is when He is our Master. We can create a pretty good reputation… whenever, with whoever…if we try hard enough, but He alone can develop character. No, my reputation will not stand before the judgment seat, my character will.
Jesus never taught a “fake it til you make it” mentality. His disciples came to Him rough around the edges, real, full of themselves, concerned about getting their fair share… but after their time with Him, through many rough patches that developed their character, they became devoted witnesses who gave even their lives for His kingdom. When we read the New Testament, we see how little Jesus’ reputation meant to Him and after a while how His disciples followed suit.
I think this will be one of the most challenging journeys that I begin in my walk with Christ. I could share ten reasons why, but I’d like to end this post with anyone reading it still awake. Suffice it to say that since I was a very small girl I have built my world around what everyone else thinks I am. Hard thing to admit, but true nonetheless. I have held my identity out to anyone and everyone, hoping that they would tell me who I am. Some people unknowingly launched me skyward, some people naively crushed me under their feet, others simply carried me, but none of them knew me like the One who created me. He is the One who tells me who I am. He is the One worth believing. His Words are the ones truly safe to build my world around. The other safe, comfortable, but equally false world of relying on reputation has to come down, and though I am frightened to see what happens when it does, come down it will. The words that will soon grace Kate’s wall bring hope… “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.”