One of the wisest and gentlest characters ever to inhabit story is described as “this experienced yet innocent soul … .” Her name is Miss Lydgate (we never learn her first name) and she’s one of the Oxford Dons in Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers’ thoughtful, captivating and quite literary (in substance and motif) detective novel featuring Harriet Vane and – to a lesser degree – Sayers’ usual detective Lord Peter Wimsey.*
A reputation of character
As Harriet Vane’s alma mater faces repeated attack from an unknown vandal, whose tactics are not just physical ruin but personal ruin of the college inhabitants as well, it becomes clear that the scourge must be an insider. One member of the faculty we are assured it will not be is Miss Lydgate. She is not only an “innocent soul” but also known for her “scrupulous personal integrity.” While other faculty members cast suspicious eyes on one another and are under suspicion themselves, no one would think for a moment to include Miss Lydgate as a possible suspect.
Her reputation reminds me of some advice Jesus gave:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16.)
Jesus’ listeners probably couldn’t help but think of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Some of those people might even have been present when the Holy Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus at his baptism, so the full import of the innocence Jesus advised in Matthew 10 – a divine Innocence to go with a serpent’s wisdom – would have been apparent to his listeners.
This is what you are called to as well: shrewd wisdom while relying on the righteous innocence of the Spirit of Christ.
A reputation of deeds
We can learn something else from Miss Lydgate. She also has an airtight alibi for one of the vandal’s earliest attacks – she is with Harriet Vane and the college’s Dean as they fruitlessly chase the perpetrator one dark night – proving that it pays to be not only of good character but also to have a witness or two for your whereabouts during a crime spree.
Jesus’ followers, too, are to live so that others see they are not only not guilty of a crime spree but are responsible for much more.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16.)
In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. (1 Timothy 5:25.)
It is not a matter of doing this on your own, of course. Rather, Jesus is with you every moment. He wants you so close to him that his steps are your steps, and that when people see you they see him right at your side.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29.)
Do you keep this restful company with Jesus, learning from him as his followers did 2000 years ago? If so, you might find yourself resembling Miss Lydgate, an “experienced yet innocent soul” that others look to as light in a world too often under attack.
This is the reputation God cultivates in you through the Spirit of Christ in your character and in your deeds.
*Last Monday’s post also referenced Sayers’ Gaudy Night: Approval of Women Is Not a Male Prerogative.