How easily we believe stories told. It seems we want to believe people talking but disbelieve the innocence of those being talked about. We often condemn the object of a harsh story without a fair trial. And the testimony of a person offering evidence that appears irrefutable is even harder to dismiss.
Why is it so hard to reject or at least question some stories? Why are we so susceptible in the hidden recesses of our minds when we hear private tales of troublemakers? Are we too naïve to believe a storyteller would lie? Do we forget that even “proof” can be presented with smoke and mirrors but true truth will pass tests, critical questions and scrutiny? Do we feel better about ourselves to hear of others’ alleged wrongdoings since we wrong-do too? Are juicy morsels just appetizing, suppressing boredom? Do we feel important being in the know? Do we forget that those behaving badly offer all kinds of cover-up stories and finger-pointing diversions to escape being caught, and we best not believe them? Do we forget that narratives aren’t always rightly motivated?
I don’t know. But Mary who bore Jesus had one of those dicey situations going on. She surely had whispers traveling around town about her scandalous (at least in her day) belly. We know this, because for goodness sake, it took angels to set straight the key players who needed to believe her—to accept her story and celebrate the baby she found herself expecting. Angels. Those are the big guns God pulls out when having proper intel is make or break down here. And the irrefutable evidence of her wrongness that folks were bound to believe wasn’t so irrefutable after all. Sometimes, the harder-to-believe story is the true one.
So today, I write to you who are being rejected, pushed away, wrongly labeled or under the weighty gaze of those who’ve misjudged you or told twisted stories. Even if the gullible partakers think that they’re just believing hard evidence, don’t worry. If no one has sought out your harder-to-discover truth, don’t worry. You’re in great company. It’s a tale as old as Christmas.
If people easily believe slurs about you, don’t worry. They’re not your people. Let them go, and make space for your people.
If you want to shout your carefully plotted self-defense from the rooftops, because appearances or words have been misleading, don’t worry. All things hidden will eventually come to light. Those who don’t ask to hear your defense won’t accept it anyway. If they didn’t seek out your perspective, they’re not interested, and everyone gets to choose their own interests. Just shout it with confidence to heaven, where it will be valued and believed, your tears cared about and recorded.
If you want to return false testimony or ugly intentions in kind, don’t worry, you’re human. But don’t. The angels who always have the ear of the King have got you covered.
If your life’s work or purpose require traversing less-traveled terrain—both bizarre and painful—don’t worry. Ponder it like the Christmas baby’s selfless mother did. Let it all wash around inside until there’s a purity of heart and vision (after you have a good cry if need be, since that’s purifying, too).
If loneliness threatens to discourage you, because your well-wishers are dropping like flies but haters are proliferating out of shockingly thin air, don’t worry. Hosts from heaven sing over you when you’ve said, like Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1:38, ESV)
If you appear to fail massively—even over and over and over—in the eyes of others, and they dismiss your credibility, don’t worry. The most truly revolutionary and highly influential people all seemed to face major rejection on top of severe opposition that caused many losses before their wins. When you have a Mary heart beating inside of you, you will birth greatness. Just nurture and wait for it.
God frequently made potent promises of good things to come for you who willingly and humbly submit to embarrassment or loss of popularity out of a sacrificial love for others. Those others may never know what you’ve done for them in their days on this earth, but the God who judges accurately and rewards all does see. El Roi.
A reputation is a hard thing to release to the care of Providence. I’m not trying to say it’s easy, just simple. When you’ve voluntarily adopted servanthood, you’ve surrendered ultimate command and control to One greater. And it can be a relief to let go of what you or others think—or think your life should look like—knowing the Master is a master choreographer and vindicator.
In the meantime, you have Someone who stepped down off a cross to carry any shame someone might try to assign you. You need not walk with your head down if your heart has been given up.
A friend and I were talking recently about how the outcome just can’t matter as long as you play the game right. Just live right. Period. Live with love (that includes tough love, peeps) and rightness of purpose. Period. Make sound decisions on principle, not manipulative ones to try to force a result. Period. Sometimes you’ll get the right outcome from right effort in the short term, but sometimes you’ll get the wrong result for your efforts for a while…sometimes for a long while. Live right anyway. Nothing is wasted or worth worrying too much about when you’re living from a clean conscience.
The superficial things will all fall away some day—everybody fully known–and you’ll be left intact. Those living on the surface, for the surface and swearing truth by the surface of things will not be able to say the same. Any lack of integrity or falsely told or believed stories will be exposed.
So, I want to speak backward in time to that profoundly faithful young mother, and concurrently speak to you who are struggling in a similar way today. Brave Mary, the world may have perceived you as a little rebel, wrong in every way, a little liar, a little tramp almost certainly in your culture. But you had more reason than most to hold your head high. You were on the side of the angels, my dear. And I suspect that you could have written this Casting Crowns’ song verbatim to cheer on those who now aim to rid themselves of their own interests and carry Jesus, too:
And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy.
I don’t care if they remember me.
And I, I’ve only got one life to live.
I’ll let every second point to Him.
With Hope and Heart in Hand,
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