Saturday morning at our young adult retreat, Phil Swartzentruber was leading a discussion about “joy in suffering.” He was looking in Matthew at the beatitudes, especially the verse that says, “blessed are you when men persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely in my name.” (I didn’t look that up – the wording may not be quite right.) He made a pretty valid point: Most of us won’t be physically persecuted in our lifetimes. We probably won’t find ourselves with a gun against our head and being forced to renounce Jesus or die. The persecution in our lives is most likely going to be verbal… right?
It got me thinking. In one sense, I really don’t care what people think about me. I don’t necessarily let other people’s opinions dictate how I dress, what kind of vehicle I drive or how I decorate my house. But at the same time, it is very important to me to know that other people think well of me. I’ve built up a reputation for myself as a likeable, respectable person. It’s a little weird, looking at it that way. Kind of makes me feel old. It takes time to “build up” anything, especially a good reputation.
But maybe all it really means is that I’m good at avoiding conflict. I’ve learned to keep my opinions to myself instead of starting a debate or offending someone. It might be good for me to have some people dislike me – if they’re doing it because, for once, I’m passionate about something I believe in. Oh…. but life is just too full of grey areas for me to stand up and make waves.
Every so often I get a facebook notification that “someone has answered a question about me.” And every once in a while, I click over to the Friends FAQ application and read people’s answers: Yes, Ruthie Voth is smarter than the average bear… yes, I’m reliable… no, I wouldn’t key someone’s car for revenge… no, i’m not a liar, i’m not trailer trash, i’m a good driver, i’m not a pervert… and the list goes on. I’m not lazy or ignorant; I don’t have a deep, dark secret, I’ve never skinny dipped, I’m not a gold digger, I don’t speed while driving, never lied in an interview, never played beer pong or strip poker, would not sell out a friend for $100k. I AM fun to be around, would do community service voluntarily, I’m religious, not a virgin, I’ve kissed a guy, but never slapped anyone, I’ve never prank called anyone. Someone thinks I would go bungee jumping. Someone else would like to see me dance like Michael Jackson for money. This is what people think of me. (I do realize that you have the option to skip questions. So the people who think I’m a pervert or a bad driver may have clicked “skip” out of respect to my feelings.) Which is still saying something. Dontcha think?