“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden
I had settled into my seat for the evening and was chatting with others around me. The room was alive with the energy of a thousand women who had been anticipating this night for weeks. This was our church’s annual Women’s Christmas Event. Although it was something I usually looked forward to, it was different for me this year. I was preoccupied with a personal issue, but was trying not to get lost in my own head. And then, the worship started.
I sang along, knowing and loving each song. I knew the presence of God was the only cure for my injured soul. Rejection had come to my doorstep like an unwanted solicitor, and as usual, its persistence threatened to persuade me to give in to the pressure of a hard sell.
My situation started a few weeks earlier, when a woman, whom I had only spoken with a few times, had completely misconstrued a conversation between us and made a false accusation about me. Her story couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, the truth was the complete opposite of her story. But I had no idea there was even a problem, until I was called to meet with two women who informed me. These women, whom I had respected, were leaders.
As everything unfolded, I became aware of the false accusation against me. It was as if I had unknowingly been placed on trial. Before I even knew it started and in my absence and without opportunity to defend myself, a jury of two women had reached a verdict. The court had been adjourned with the rap of the judge’s gavel and I was pronounced guilty. In addition, I was now relieved of some of my regular volunteer activities, which I loved. I was so hurt and wounded.
As I was reprimanded (in a very polite way), I was instructed about how I should have “believed the best” about my accuser. Yet they seemed to dismiss the fact that after having been acquainted with me for years, they had not given me the same consideration. Being lied about was bad enough, and now, betrayal would be the crowning cherry on top.
I was doing my best to push through this situation with an attitude and heart that would be pleasing to God. But I still felt justified in my anger. After all, I had been misrepresented and completely misjudged in a situation where I had done nothing wrong.
As I began to worship, “Silent Night“, which is one of my favorites, began to play. I began to ask God to show me…what had it REALLY been like in that stable the night Jesus was born? It was too easy to resort to the familiar images of the little nativity scene where the cows are lined up and everything appears orderly and fairly clean…but as I asked Him that question that night, I began to see a different picture. I realized that Joseph was probably a little frantic as he attempted to make a place where his wife could give birth. He had to clear manure out of the way and somehow get the animals to move.
Then I began to think about Mary and the birthing process. She, like all other women in that day and time, gave birth with nothing to alleviate the pain. She felt everything and experienced much pain and probably cried out many times because of it. Everything about that birth was as human as any other birth that ever was before or since, with only one difference. The child being born that night was as much God as He was man, but no one knew it. Some would even make the choice to disbelieve it.
I began to think about that. This Jesus who lived in heaven, came to earth and was born as one of us. This scripture came to mind:
…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:6-8
There I was, standing in a room full of women, worshipping this amazing God who created the universe, and I’m hit with the reality of what it really meant for Him to be born into such humanness. Here He was, the Almighty God, being born in the form of a man. He would receive no accolades, no praise, no recognition for who He really was. He knew that He would one day be
“misrepresented and completely misjudged in a situation where He had done nothing wrong”… (sound familiar?)
As I worshipped, I was no longer aware of the wrong that had been done to me, or the way I had been misunderstood or how my heart’s intentions had been wrongly judged.
As the Lord revealed these things to me, I knew He was asking me to examine my heart… Was I willing to become a person of no reputation? Was I willing to forfeit the accolades that I thought should be mine? Could I go unnoticed for a good deed or a job well done? Was I willing to remain stable, even when others had wrong opinions about me when I didn’t have the opportunity to tell my side of the story? Was I willing to surrender what others thought of me, fully to Him, and let Him be my vindicator and the “righter” of someone else’s wrongs towards me?
God began to show me that I am not the sum total of what others think of me. He measures me much differently. If Jesus were only what others thought of Him, then He would have been nothing more than a lying, heretic…yet we know that He was the Word made flesh that came to live among us. In light of that great sacrifice, just in coming and being born, the act of emptying Himself and becoming one of us, I couldn’t respond in any other way, than to surrender everything that had weighed me down. Suddenly, I was free.
Now, I realize even more, the importance of surrendering this whole reputation thing; for it is only when I am willing to lay it down, that I am positioned to be fully submitted and obedient to God’s direction for my life. When I come to places of being resistant to obeying God, I find it’s because I’m too worried about what others will think of me. This strongly indicates that I’m putting my reputation and the opinions of people before God.
After a life long issue with trust, I’ve realized something. I no longer have to trust people. You read that correctly. I don’t need to trust the people in my life as much as I need to trust God with the people in my life. When I am fully surrendered to Him, He can change the hearts of those around me and take care of everything that concerns me. So remember…you are not your reputation.