It has been said that the true character of a man is what he does when no one else is looking. I might amend that to say: the true character of a man is what his heart is inclined to do, and what he does, when no one is looking.
I realized this yesterday as I was helping my mother-in-law trim her hedge. I’ve never trimmed a hedge before, but it didn’t look all that hard, so I volunteered. And it wasn’t hard in a mountain-climbing, desert-crossing kind of way, but it wasn’t something I’d typically do on a relaxing vacation either.
Using old-school hedge shears and a small platform ladder, I took to the top and the side of this long, overgrown hedge, and over the course of the next hour or so, I made good progress in the 90 degree heat. I wanted to do a good job, doing my work with excellence, making a good impression on the in-laws, and doing my work for the glory of God. So I took special care to round the top corners and get clean lines along the sides, you know, making the hedge look like it belonged with the best of hedges.
But before long, I realized I needed to go around to the neighbor’s side of the hedge to complete the project. And there is where I found a test of my character, waiting in the shade of cascading fruit trees. Sure, this side of the hedge needed trimming as well, but it was the neighbor’s side after all, so my in-laws wouldn’t really see it. And the hedge was mostly hidden from view by the trees, so maybe the neighbors wouldn’t really see it either. So I thought about skimping on the work, offering a few token cuts with the shears on a side no one would notice.
But that’s when the refrain echoed in my mind: the true test of a man’s character… I realized that if I really meant to work for the glory of God, to cut this hedge for His glory, as it if were His hedge I was trimming (which it was after all), then it meant doing all of the work as if all of it could be seen.
Jeremiah tells us that our God, “who judges righteously…tests the heart and the mind” (Jeremiah 11:20). Jesus tells us that “I am he who searches mind and heart” (Revelation 2:23), and that “nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2).
I decided to cut the entire hedge as if it were God’s, and I’m grateful to Him for testing and revealing the hidden things in my heart. My prayer for all of us is that He would continue to test us, and change us, and shape our hearts and minds and hands so that all the things we do will be for His glory alone, and that our character, as we’re being conformed to the image of Christ, would be sharpened by the shears of His Spirit, so we might be presented to Him as perfect and holy.
Question: What is one of your stories of character-testing?