I don't think much about this normally. I just figure if I live well, aim to please Christ, that's the main and only point. What others think of me is secondary. I remember once in high school, when a boy in my class who was rather wild, with a huge intellect, must have said something perhaps hurtful to me. I don't remember what he said. What I do remember is walking down the hall by the library with him (which is a surprise--I certainly cannot remember EVER walking anywhere with him at any other time) and saying, "Only those who actually are in my life have the power to hurt me with what they say about me, Mike."
"So you don't care what others think of you?"
"People will think what they will," I told him. Can you imagine? My sixteen-year-old self said these words. Of course, I'm pretty sure I didn't quite mean them completely then. How could I? A girl that age? Still, it tells me that my feelings about reputation run pretty deep.
Besides, it seems to me that if one is actually following Christ and aiming with her whole heart to please Him, it will show up in all areas of life. However, every now and then something happens that forces me to examine a concept I believe I'm immune to. This week has rendered two such moments about my own reputation, one which is laughable and matters not a whit in the grand scheme of things, and the other, less laughable, which continues to plague me, sorry to say.
The first story (which actually happened more recently) occurred the other day when I had to take a lock out to U-Haul to put on the storage unit we got for a month to house SK's stuff. There were two men at the counter, the young one helping a customer. The older one, clearly the owner, asked me my business. I explained what I needed, which was the number of the unit, since Beve had neglected to tell me. The man asked if I was on the account. It turns out that I wasn't. Beve had put E on instead, because she's a sturdy type who can actually lift and move boxes and furniture. Smart thinking of Beve...except that, with the lock I was holding and E's name on the account, this old man thought that I was the first wife, and she was the second, and I was trying to lock out my ex-husband from his storage unit. And, even when I told him otherwise, and could recite Beve's name date and serial number faster than he could, he didn't believe me. He's seen too much in his life, I guess. The people who use storage units must be sorry sorts. So there I was, trying to convince a man that I am who I am, that my daughter is my daughter and that my own husband is my husband. See what I mean about laughable? Fortunately, this man also watches the clock and when he saw that it was his quitting time, he pretty much ran out the door, and the younger man, who'd been watching the whole by-play, apologized up, down and sideways about it, led me to the right storage unit and sent me on my way. I was still shaking my head hours later, thinking of what a vindictive ex-wife I'd been for a while there.
The other--more important to me--situation happened at SK's Baccalaureate. Before the service, when the Petersons walked in, I went up to Jan and Eugene to catch a word with her. I knew he'd been in the pre-preaching zone, but she was just sitting there. We had a few moments to chat and in the course of that, she asked me about my health. I said a few things, and she asked if I took medication for my leg. I said, "Oh yes, a cocktail of meds." She looked at me, then said, "I have a friend who got addicted to pain meds after a surgery, and it's been horrible trying to get off them." I just nodded, and our conversation moved to other things. Hours later, literally, when I saw them walk in to graduation, it suddenly hit me why she told me about her friend. She thought I was addicted to pain meds. It horrified me. Really. That Eugene and Jan Peterson might think I was addicted to pain meds, when I NEVER take them--that just killed me. I can't stand any kind of narcotic because they give me headaches. I'd rather live with the pain than deal with a different kind of pain on top of what I already have. Besides, what would be the point? No, my meds are all directed toward the nerves in my body--anti-epilepsy drugs, primarily. No addiction possible.
It's in me to want to write them a letter and clarify exactly what I just clarified here. Just because I don't want them to think poorly of me. To have the wrong impression. And I could, of course. But I also know that ultimately my reputation is in God's hands. Yes, I am certain Jan did get the wrong idea. It's very likely she's praying for me and my dependency on drugs. I know her, I know how she rolls. But it also feels small, if that makes sense, for me to have to defend myself. It's just not that big a deal in the grand scheme of the Kingdom. Would I care if it was a different person? Someone with a smaller shadow over the world, and my own life? Maybe not.
I'm still chewing on this, as you can tell. Ultimately, as I said in the beginning, what matters most is what God thinks of me, and to live in such a way that I honor Him. Enough said.