This week I read a post on Donald Miller’s blog. He talked about character versus reputation and the two concepts rattled inside of me the rest of the week, leaving me unsure why I couldn’t shake them. A few days later I bought some Round Up for killing the weeds in my front yard and somehow that helped clear things up for me.
A little over three and a half years ago, days before our third son was born, our pipes had to be replaced. In classic money pit style, none of it could be done the easy way, so our yard got torn up in the process and has yet to recover.
Now our front yard is FULL of weeds (seriously, there is nothing left but weeds) for a few reasons. Number one: replacing the pipes meant ruining our sprinkler system which then put the project into the completely overwhelming category. Number two: neither my husband nor I enjoy gardening. At all. Number three: the economy hit us too. Number four: we have been living out our value that the people in our home are more important than landscaping.
As I sprayed the weeds I thought about how the landscaping outside our home is representative of our reputation, what others think of us. But what happens inside our home with our family is our character, who we truly are. In Donald Miller’s post he encourages his readers to focus more on character in 2012 and less on reputation. If you drive by our home and see our yard, you will clearly see how my husband and I have let go of our reputation.
Now, I wouldn’t say either of us likes coming home to the ugliest yard in the neighborhood, but we know we will get to it as soon as we have the resources. Unfortunately, our neighbors seem to care more about our reputation than we do. In addition to some pointed tips people have felt free to give us, we have also received two anonymous notes from disgruntled neighbors. Our neighbors are uncomfortable with how our yard makes them look.
And as I sprayed some more weeds it occurred to me that not only were these two concepts playing out in my home, they were also playing out inside of me, and that’s probably why my brain has not been able to stop thinking about that darn post.
Last year I made some difficult decisions to pause contact with a few family members in order to take care of the inside of me. My home – the inside of me – was in shambles and I needed to draw the shades and block out the world in order to tend to my insides. I knew it would not be a popular decision and it would make me look bad to any number of people who might find out about or be affected by this choice. My “yard” – my reputation – was likely to take a hit.
But I did get better. In ways and to degrees that I did not think were possible this side of Heaven. I am still normal and human but I am also new and healed where before I was broken and wounded. And now I am ready to re-establish contact. But this week it occurred to me that although I am ready and willing, re-connecting might not be possible.
In addition to being hurt by my need for space, these family members might prefer the relationship they had with the old me. They might not be interested in what I have to offer them now.
So as I sprayed more weeds I saw my choices to tend to the inside and let the outside go for a while – both in my home and in my self – come at a cost. My husband and I are the black sheep of the neighborhood now. The people around us don’t like our priorities. They might like them in theory when they are making small talk at a block party, but in practice when they are making their neighborhood look bad, they are not fans. And my choices to focus on the inside of me may have cost me to loose some family relationships permanently, which was never my intention.
Donald Miller failed to mention that sometimes choosing character over reputation isn’t as easy or clear-cut as it sounds. He didn’t talk about the cost of such choices. However even now, seeing the cost of my choices, I am not sorry I made them. I would make them all over again. My kids were worth my front yard, and I was worth the cost too. Even if the price ends up being higher than I originally thought.