Bessie A. Stanley said, “He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men, the trust of pure women and the love of little children; who has left the world a better place than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a beautiful poem or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.”
Bertie May Garrett left her mark on those of us who love poetry when she left us with these words:
“Today upon a bus I saw a lovely girl with lovely hair,
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and wished I were as fair;
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle,
She had one leg and wore a crutch, and as she passed, a smile.
O God, forgive me when I whine, I have two legs, the world is mine.”
Even in the worst circumstances, if we trust in God we need not fear. Jesus said to his disciples, “Be not afraid, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.”
God tied a little ribbon around every human heart, which keeps us connected to him. We call it conscience. It is a royal crest. He created us; he died for us and we are members of the royal family. It is our coat of arms. You can deny it, you may ignore it, but you can never, ever change it.
David had big dreams. He wanted to build a house for the Lord. He never achieved his dream. Building the temple was left for Solomon.
David was a statesman. He was Israel’s greatest king. He was brave. He was also a great sinner. As a father he was a failure. He was a man of unwavering faith. He was a man of piety and a lover of righteousness.
Listen to the anguish of his broken heart when he cried out in Psalm 51. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgression, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight — purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
“Hide thy face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me ... restore unto me the joy of my salvation ... and I will teach transgressors thy ways.” (Psalm 51)
Conscience is one of the great gifts God gave to the human family. You can reject it, ignore it and refuse to listen, but still it speaks. Lord Byron said, “Yet still there whispers the small voice within.”
You and I belong to God. Someone asked me recently, “What is the difference between reputation and character?” “Reputation,” I replied, “is what your neighbors think about you, but character is what you know about yourself.”
Robert V. Ozment is a retired United Methodist minister.