Man of No Reputation
There's a haunting song on Rich Mullin's Jesus Record called "Man of No Reputation" [listen], by Rick Elias. The chorus speaks of Christ, and it runs something like this:
He was a man of no reputationIt's a great song, and I was reminded again today just how much I still struggle with this myself. You see, I am dreadfully insecure. Now, most of the time you would never know it - a long time ago I subconsciously decided that one of the surest ways to avoid "not measuring up" in the eyes of others was simply to expect more of myself than anyone else ever did. If you set the bar high enough, then everyone else's expectations will always be lower than your own. They will never think worse of you than you already do yourself.
And by the wise, considered a fool
When He spoke about faith and forgiveness
In a time when the strongest arms ruled
But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection
And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were
He was a man of no reputation
Yeah, it's twisted in an anal-retentive sort of way. It has the semblance of humility, of not caring what others think, but it's only skin deep. Deep down, I still want people to like me, and it still hurts like hell when they don't.
As I said, this all came flooding to the fore this evening after dinner. We recently had some friends from school over for dinner - they knew me, but had never met Marilyn. We had a great evening. And then when Marilyn ran into one of them again this morning, Matty greeted her warmly and then confessed with a smile:
"I had you pegged for a doormat. I mean, Christian has such a strong personality that I just figured his wife must be docile or something... and instead, you're a total pistol!"
Now, this was a very nice compliment for Marilyn (and I'm sure those of you who know her will agree - she has a strong personality and can hold her own with just about anyone - which is part of the reason I was so attracted to her years ago).
Here's the thing though. What made the whole thing funny was that Matty's conception of what Marilyn would be like was completely wrong - but she had a reason for thinking that. She knew me. And as the reality of that sank in, I immediately found myself thinking: "What does she really think of me? What does everyone else in my class think of me? Am I one of those guys who is a total ass and just doesn't know it? Am I..."
You see, my mind seized one tiny little piece of data - someone's perception of me having a "strong personality" (good grief, how can anyone think that anyway????) - and it ran with it. My mind ruminated on it, looked at it from every angle, considered all the implications, wondered whether I should try and change my public persona.
And in the midst of all this, it just struck me - Christian, why are you so concerned with your reputation? Why does the mere possibility of disapproval just grab me by the throat and give me a pit in the bottom of my stomach? Why can such a simple thing own me so easily?
I think the only answer is that I worship myself way more than I'd ever like you to know. I place huge expectations on myself because deep down that is really where I put a lot of my confidence, my hope. I crave success, adulation - not from everyone, but definitely from people I like and admire. I want you to like me.
And that is the antithesis of what Christ was, really. Jesus came, humbly, dressed in the garb of a servant. And that is what he calls us to do as well - to die to ourselves, to live solely to please God, to see ourselves as ambassadors, representatives of a great and glorious king.
At the end of the day, the only thing that should matter to me, is that I matter to him.
And sadly, that just isn't the reality very often. So I am convicted by Matty's compliment to my wife, and I am reminded once again just how sinfully self-serving I really am. Jesus, teach me to love you more than I love myself - teach me to be a man after your own heart, a man of no reputation, willing to be considered a fool.