Character and Choices

 

(c) 2015 Mark Warner from flickr.com

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. –Proverbs 22:1 NIV

“Identity theft sucks,” I read on the Facebook post. The writer had received a notice from the IRS that apparently someone had used her Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and, as a result, possibly claimed any refund she may have gotten from the state. Which she’d planned to use to pay the federal taxes.

Unfortunately, it was just one more thing in a string of unfortunate incidents that brought her to the brink of questioning her principles. After sending a check to the IRS for what she and her husband owed, she commented: “We will just continue to work our butts off to continue to pay my mountain of student loans, debt, and other bills. Who said hard work and honesty will get you somewhere?”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’re slammed with one thing after another, even though we strive to do what’s right. And then we question whether doing the right thing even matters, when others make a living cheating and stealing – and getting away with it.

Back in college, I took a three-hour-a-day summer literature class. During the break the day before the weekly essay test, several students stole the test questions while the professor was out of the room. Of course, those students would receive the highest grades because the prof graded on a curve.

That day I called home, crying. “Why bother?” I lamented to my father. “I won’t get a good grade no matter how much I study.”

I studied anyway. But it was without heart.

After we got our tests back, I approached the professor and told him I didn’t think the grade was fair.

He peered at me over his bifocals. “Well, other students in the class . . .”

“Of course they did, you stupid jerk,” I thought. “You left the test in your briefcase, easily accessible to anyone, and left the classroom.”

I’m not a confrontational person, so I shut up and put up. If I’d told the prof the truth, I would have made him look like a fool and would have had to endure the wrath of the wrongdoers. Like my Facebook friend, I questioned whether doing the right thing was worth it.

But, like any other character trait, honesty is a choice. That’s truly what forms our character – the choices we make.

It’s not that I have a temper and “I couldn’t help myself.” It’s that I chose to vent my anger.

We choose to tell the truth, report all income on our tax return, not fudge expenses, return incorrect change to the store. We choose to honor our wedding vows, keep a promise, say no to an addiction. We choose to use the turn signal at an intersection even when there’s no other traffic around.

“Character is what you are in the dark,” said D. L. Moody.

John Wooden said something similar: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Jesus blasted hypocrites because they only did the right thing when there was someone around to see (Matthew 6:1–6). They chose to do right for the wrong reason.

What is the right reason?

Because it’s what God wants us to do.

“Tell me,” the prophet Samuel said to the disobedient King Saul. “Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.” (See 1 Samuel 15:1–23)

I responded to my Facebook friend’s lament.

“Keep doing the right thing,” I wrote. “Integrity, respect, character, and a good reputation can never be stolen from you, and they are worth far more than anything the world calls ‘treasure’.”

What choices are you facing today?

Help me, O Lord, to know the right thing to do and give me the courage and strength to do it. Amen.

The Bible has a lot to say about character. Here are some verses to read and meditate on:

Habakkuk 3:17–19, Matthew 6:19–34, Proverbs 11:5–11, Proverbs 31, 2 Peter 1:5–7, John 13:17

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

A Time for Change

 

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Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He. I am He who will sustain you. –Isaiah 46:4 NIV

Outside on a makeshift table—a wooden pallet resting on two waist-high saw horses—is the last batch of tomatoes from the garden. Glory hallelujah!

While I’m thankful for a good crop of tomatoes this year, I’m ready to throw in my canning towel. And while I’m not ready to throw out the gardening tools altogether, I am ready to make next year’s garden smaller. A dozen tomato plants instead of two dozen. No corn, since it hasn’t done well and takes up too much room.

And I wonder—what “plants” in my personal life take up too much room for what little they produce? Both time and energy are dwindling these days. I just remarked to someone yesterday—at a funeral, no less—that the older I get, the faster time goes and the slower I go.

Time doesn’t really move any faster than it did when I was 21, 31, 41, 51, or even 61. But here I am, nearly 66, and I’m just realizing this old, not-gray-yet mare just ain’t what she used to be.

This came as a shock. I saw others getting older and slower, and I knew that day would eventually come to me. But I wasn’t ready for it. And here it is.

What am I going to do about it?

First, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully scrutinize my schedule and determine what to keep and what to cut. When you’re spread too thin, you can’t give your best.

I want—I need—rest and relaxation time to restore and refresh my body, mind, and spirit. This includes leisure reading, crocheting, and just sitting on the swing watching the leaves turn and the clouds float across the autumn sky. This has been lacking.

Family time is also important—my grandkids are growing up too fast—as is time to take care of household duties.

Then there are my ministries: my little flock (I’m a lay speaker/pastor) and my writing, which includes this column and fiction.

What to cut and what to keep?

A friend gave me a card I posted on my workstation that reads, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Psalm 37 gives some good advice as I ponder taking that first step:

  • Don’t fret (v. 1).
  • Trust in the Lord (v. 3; also see v. 4).
  • Commit my way to Him (v. 5).
  • Be still (v. 7).
  • Wait patiently (v. 7).

I’ll be the first to admit those last two are hard!

As I ponder and pray about what’s next for me, I rest on God’s promise: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He. I am He who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Life circumstances change. People change. We change. But God never will.

What changes are you facing today?

Thank You, Lord God, that whatever my future holds, You are already there. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Psalm 37

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.