The Words of the Cooper Family

A DIY character reference

Simon Cooper
December 2, 2011

I often get asked by a range of people in the community and the congregation for a character reference when they are applying for a new job. I tend to write the good things about them, which is normally not hard to do, and leave out any limitations they have. We don't tend to like being honest about each other's character. It's a sensitive matter, probably because we are all so flawed it's a bit tragic when we look with a forensic eye.

Just today, I considered from a distance, as much as I could, and all be it for a fleeting 90 seconds, my own character.

Our values determine our objectives, and the path we take towards them This is how I got there: While I was thinking about some themes for our January 2012 message series, I was reading about how the essential and determining factor for the long term plans that we make are our values. Whether consciously or unconsciously they shape significantly how we manage our future. We cannot touch them but they guide us like the stars that allow a sailor at night to navigate his course at sea. And that brought me to the fact that how I exercise whatever values I have pretty much determines my character.

Now here is the realization I had. I have always believed that because I had a personal experience with God's holy spirit and consequently developed a life of faith that I became a better person. That could be and might be true. There were some obvious changes in life style, which I still recognize as healthy and good. I thought more about others than I did previously, and basically felt willing to make some so called sacrifices because of the tone of grace that got dropped on me.

But how about my character? How much has it really changed in all these years of faith?

It dawned on me today, that I have been left wanting, and in many respects due to an assumption that I changed my life and started to believe. I became lazy about actively defining my character through my values. When I now look more closely at the motivation for my life style changes I notice that some things I wouldn't do now because I believe them to be immoral or irresponsible, and I would rather avoid the consequences of crossing certain lines. I know the danger zone. But sometimes this does not feel like a show of real character. It can be a mere veneer. It's like being a reformed alcoholic who has to stay out of pubs for the fear of a relapse.

We talk a lot about heart in our community, and that is a good thing. But it crossed my mind today that perhaps we should also speak more of character, and how one becomes one's own man or woman. Perhaps a possible over focus on the value of attendance has led to sometimes us not fully exploring what is the point of attendance. God surely wants us to be disciples who have fully made up our own minds, and diligently crafted them to reflect his creative brilliance; rather than the dullness that we all know we sometimes settle for, because it is often more acceptable and frankly less demanding.

The goal in life is not to make other people happy. It's great if we can do that sometimes, even a lot. But our real objective is to finish the creation that God started when he allowed us to be born. (btw, I'm talking to 'me') 

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