Thomas Paine, founding father of the United States once remarked, "Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.”
When I was nine years old, a newly qualified minister came to our church as sole nominee. With a human size cardboard cut out of Gladys Aylward, his children's address introduced me to the remarkable story of "The Small Woman" as Alan Burgess called her in his biography.
She felt called to be a missionary in China. The China Inland Mission didn't consider her to be satisfactory material and did not offer her further training due to her reputation as a poor language scholar. God knew differently, and undaunted, she persevered in her calling and launched herself towards China. She was small in stature, a working class girl who hadn't grasped the Chinese language, but who in 1932 made her way by train and boat to work as a missionary in a place which might as well have been the moon for all she knew about it.
In the end, she was revered among the people for her stories of Jesus, her hospitality, her care of orphans, and her work in abolishing the foot binding of young girls. Her gravestone in New Taipei, Taiwan, touchingly gives her the Chinese name which means 'Virtuous One'. What a commentary on her reputation and her God-inspired character!
What do you know of me
that I do not yet know of myself? … [pause and reflect]
Show me what needs addressing in my character
to fashion me in your image … [pause and reflect]
Is there something within me which is holding me back
from responding to your call on my life? … [pause and reflect]
Examine me and test me, Lord; judge my desires and thoughts. Your constant love is my guide; your faithfulness always leads me.
1 Declare me innocent, O Lord,
because I do what is right
and trust you completely.
2 Examine me and test me, Lord;
judge my desires and thoughts.
3 Your constant love is my guide;
your faithfulness always leads me.
4 I do not keep company with worthless people;
I have nothing to do with hypocrites.
5 I hate the company of the evil
and avoid the wicked.
6 Lord, I wash my hands to show that I am innocent
and march in worship around your altar.
7 I sing a hymn of thanksgiving
and tell of all your wonderful deeds.
8 I love the house where you live, O Lord,
the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not destroy me with the sinners;
spare me from the fate of murderers—
10 those who do evil all the time
and are always ready to take bribes.
11 As for me, I do what is right;
be merciful to me and save me!
12 I am safe from all dangers;
in the assembly of his people I praise the Lord.