To be honest, it stung a little bit.
It happened in the midst of a conversation in which someone complimented my brother on a recent article. The focus then shifted to me and someone asked what I normally write about. Another person close to them injected, “You remember, she’s the movie girl.”
Ouch. In ten seconds flat, with no one realizing it, I had been summarily dismissed as trivial.
In past years, it wouldn’t have hurt. Back then I was proud of being a movie girl. I took pleasure in always being “in the know” about the latest films and in writing about them. But my interest in movies has waned in recent months. Life has shifted my priorities and my focus elsewhere. Yet I am left hanging with a reputation that is neither fitting anymore nor that I particularly want.
How do you rebuild a reputation? No matter what you do or how much you change, to some people you will always be what you once were. They will not notice the changes in your life, or in your priorities, or in your friends, or the things that you most desire. Over the last 28 years I have been building a reputation one article and conversation at a time. It isn’t a bad one; it just isn’t one that reflects who I am now, and the woman that God is transforming me into. Sadly, though, dealing with our previous interests and mistakes is something we all must confront and deal with as we get older. In the moment, it doesn’t seem important, but in retrospect we begin to understand what our parents meant when they cautioned us against living our lives too much out in the open.
Our choices as teenagers influence how people see us as adults. They can be major choices like being a flirt and getting pregnant out of wedlock, or they can be lesser choices like becoming known as the girl who reads nothing but teen novels. You can be known as a teacher’s pet or a rebellious freak or, in my case, as a movie fanatic. And you have to deal with it later, sometimes for decades. The choices I make today will impact tomorrow, and ten years from now. Who I choose to be and how I choose to present myself matters not just in the moment but in the foreseeable future. Sadly, we make most of our biggest choices in how to identify ourselves when we are too young and immature to realize the potential repercussions. Once you put something out there, it’s out there forever and it will reflect back on you.
Changing a reputation in life is hard. It takes work and time and consistency and hoping people forget.
Fortunately, our reputation isn’t the same with God as it is with the people who surround us. Once we come to Him and repent, our sins are washed away and forgotten. Our reputation starts over in that moment, with who we are now, not who we were in the past. He won’t dig up the mistakes we made and throw them in our face. It’s over, done, we are brand new in the name of His son. I’m grateful that out of all the rebuilding I need to do in order to have the reputation I want most – as a godly and mature young woman – I don’t have to work to accomplish that with God. He has seen who I was, and who I am, and who I will become, and chosen to love me in spite of myself.