As I read about David this morning, a phrase jumped out at me in Psalm 78:72. It was talking about David as he cared for his sheep and it says: 'he fed them according to the integrity of his heart.' Integrity. I know David had it at one time, then when he sinned with Bathsheba, he lost it. He got tripped up by the devil, in a big way. Yet, even with a black mark on his character, the Bible still refers to him as a 'man after God' own heart.'
So this morning, I started to think about the word integrity. I found some interesting definitions. An undivided or unbroken completeness. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral code. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
Probably like you, I care about what people think of me. I admittedly am a people pleaser, but I usually will draw the line when pleasing people conflicts with what God is telling me to do. I work hard to be consistent in my character, and integrity is something I want people to say that I have.
But, have you ever had a time in your life where you have had to eat humble pie? A time when everything you have worked for has come crashing down? Earlier this year, I seemingly ruined in a split second my entire reputation with my daughter Amber's school. (I will preface this by saying that I was on some major headache medicine, and it definitely altered my judgment, but I still had to take responsibility for my actions.)
I confronted a teacher via email on what I thought were some inconsistencies in her grading. Her response (from a medicated parent's point of view) was unacceptable. Instead of guarding my reputation, praying about the next step, or just dropping ‘the battle’, what did I do? I forwarded her email to another parent, who had the same problem with the teacher. In it, I slammed the teacher and put some pretty negative labels on her. By accident, that parent forwarded my email directly to the teacher with her own complaints in it, cc'ing me.
When I opened my friend's email to the teacher and noticed what she had innocently done, can you imagine my devastation? Not only was I confronted with my sin of being a talebearer, but I was hit in the face with the fact that my reputation was destroyed. The damage had been done. I couldn’t fix it. I was broken. I knew I had not only hurt my reputation by my actions, but more so, I knew I hurt the reputation of the One who I represent.
The principal got involved, and it was all a complete and utter mess, as Simon Cowell would say. All I could do was admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness. I took responsibility for my actions, and I had to start from scratch on building my reputation again. I could have blamed my actions on the medicine. I could have tried to explain my irrational behavior. But, when you blame the situation on something else, that’s not taking responsibility, and I knew that.
Integrity. In a split second, I lost mine. I acted in the flesh, and it all went downhill from there. In hindsight, I know if I had been talking to God about the situation instead of my silly friend who is not well-versed in how to run e-mail programs, then I certainly would not have been in the situation I was in.
When you think of David, what’s one of the top stories that come into your mind? Killing Goliath maybe ranks as the #1 answer if you ask a child. But I dare say that most adults who know the life stories of David think first of his sin with Bathsheba. In a split second, his public integrity was gone. (Although we can reasonably argue that his integrity started to fade the moment he let the temptation of sin take root in his life!)
David buried the sin so deep and tried to cover it up in several ways. You know, the more we try to hide our sin, the harder it is to admit it when we finally get ‘caught’? I'm thinking "You da man!" is not what David wanted to hear from Nathan the prophet. It took Nathan's finger pointing for David to confront his own sin. He did finally ‘come clean.’ He prayed and asked for forgiveness. He said “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Yet, the Bible still refers to David as a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ I am so thankful we have a God who forgives. He is faithful. All I have to do is ask Him! When I repent, like David, he washes me clean, and he restores me.
So how do I guard my reputation? How do I build integrity in my life? Look back to the definition. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral code. We have the moral code of ethics in God’s word. We just have to study it…to internalize it! That's just another reason why I am committed to memorizing a verse of Scripture each week. Psalm 119 says "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee!"
The state of being unimpaired. I can have integrity by being unimpaired...by sin, medicine, and the influence of others. How often do I let others influence my decisions in life instead of letting God lead me? Probably more than I even realize.
And finally, the quality or condition of being whole or undivided. The only way I can be ‘undivided’ is by not letting sin take root in my life. It's only when I put my eyes on the goal and don't go to the left or to the right...just straight where He wants me to go...that I can truly serve God.
Psalm 26:1 says “Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in mine integrity. I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide.”
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Having integrity doesn't mean you're without sin. It’s how we confront the mistakes in our life that builds integrity. When I trust God for decisions, even the simple every-day ones like e-mailing a teacher, I won’t slide. (Proverbs 3:5-6) It's then that I will have a single-hearted devotion.
Integrity. It's on my 'bucket list.' How about you?