I live on a 238 square mile in the Caribbean where everyone pretty much knows everyone. The island is so small that I go to random places and people that I had never met will run up to me and say, “Who’s your mother?” “You from Laborie?” “Ma Enoch is your grandmother?”
How did they figure it out?
Yup. that’s how small it is. It is so small that if your face looks a particular way or if your nose tilts to a particular side they can tell who you’re related to. Needless to repeat – but I will anyways – that everyone knows everyone and if ever you step out of line everyone will know whose kin you are.
I was raised to value my reputation. I held myself to certain standards and just for the sake of my reputation I didn’t find myself in certain places or amongst certain people. I’m as stubborn as a mule and disagree with my parents on a lot of things, but this is one course that I took and passed in flying colors.
Fast forward to 2014.
I returned home from university with the intention to serve on a much larger scale than I had served before going off to university. Trinidad and Tobago had exposed me to a whole new dimension of service in the kingdom of God and I was coming back to share all that I had learnt.
Perhaps the vision that I had was too large. Perhaps, I was just on a new plain culturally. But my desire to serve led me into a place where my name was dragged through the mud; a place where I was the subject of much gossip and I was hurt. I dealt with it by returning to Trinidad and Tobago.
Fast forward to February 2015.
I was a new author. My first big assignment had come. I was going to another island in the capacity of keynote speaker at a Purity conference and it would also be a tremendous opportunity to promote my book.
When I found out about the opportunity, I told one handful of people and left it at that. My social media friends and family would later find out when my “not famous self” needed to do an introductory video /introduction video so the young people of Barbados could get to know who I was.
Barbados was an amazing experience ministry-wise. Between being shuttled for interviews and speaking to youth groups I was so tired that on some days I barely had enough energy to look at social media. But on the night after I had fulfilled my assignment, I took to social media. I made one statement about the young people of my homeland entering into marriage later than other young people in Caribbean islands. Debate ensued and my argument was that being single allows you the freedom to do a host of things that marriage doesn’t (including the scope of ministry) and I was unwavering and unapologetic in that stance.
The next thing I knew my name was being dragged through the mud. To these same people who were eager to like my infrequent updates on social media show-off show off. I was a feminist. I was anti-marriage and I was leading young people astray for telling them to consider that marriage is not all hugs, kisses, great sex and butterflies; for telling them to ensure that they were willing to give the gift of sacrifice that marriage would require of them and that there was NOTHING wrong with going into the institution later if it meant being prepared.
The gossip started. My friends were being approached. People who didn’t even know me were encouraged to form opinions about me. People stopped interacting with me and I left Barbados questioning if this was really worth it; if standing with the unpopular yet truthful opinion was worth my reputation being torn down and aspersions being cast on my character.
I dealt with it by not doing ministry. I dealt with it by taking a hiatus. I dealt with it by not writing or doing anything that I knew God called me to do and I placed my focus elsewhere. If you’re a follower of my blog you would have noted that nothing new came in for 6 months and it was all because my reputation was my God; all because I valued and cherished my name more than the cause of God.
Now, please don’t get me wrong.
There are countless verses in the Bible that encourage building and keeping a good name. Reputation is important. It is important for ministry and it gives a great account of God when it is built well. But when your reputation becomes more important than God and his cause it would have taken a place of precedence on the throne of your heart.
When reputation is your god it creates fertile ground for the seed of offence to blossom into bitterness and unforgiveness. Between the two experiences that I had, I was so bitter and angry that I eventually stopped making church or anything ministry wise a priority. When God opened my eyes to see where I was, I was ushered into a place of repentance. Who am I that my name would not be slandered? Who am I that my reputation should come out in tact after every trial? His own son, was called an agent of Beelzebub. So who am I?
Sometimes it is important to understand that because of the cause of God, your reputation will find itself shattered. Sometimes your reputation is what God will allow to be laid down on the altar and if he does, have every confidence that he is going to give you something greater for it. Ask David or ask the prophets of old. Losing their reps was part of the process of fulfillment of their destiny. God restored. God vindicated and God endorsed. I saw it in their lives and I’ve seen it in mine.
These days I’m focused less on my reputation and more on the reputation of God. I still have questions about ministry and every now and then, I think that helping people isn’t worth tearing down the years of hard work I took to build my reputation; to build my name and my brand. But then I’ve gotten to the place where I counter the thought that it was never about my name and my brand to begin with. It’s about Jesus’s brand.
As I close, I ask what reputation are you guarding more closely than the things of God? Is it your reputation as a wife, a mother, a good youth leader or integral businessman? Did someone say something about you which caused you to leave the church? Reputation is a subtle God. So search diligently. Like David ask God to see if there be anything taking his place on the throne of your heart.
P.S. Look out for the next post from the idol series.