Tuesday, February 3, 2009

'Til Death

Remember when you were little? You'd make a promise, and if the recipient of your word looked doubtful, they'd ask you, "Pinky swear?" And in absolute assurance, you would promise, "Pinky swear!" At the risk of losing an appendage I suppose, you gave your word.

I'm still finding myself doing that once in a while even as an adult. I'll ask Neal to promise me he'll take care of something, and if he seems to be hedging at all, I'll ask him "Swear?" And he always does. But it's never about the big stuff. I actually don't ask him to risk his pinky anymore, but the concept is the same. But I shouldn't ask him to do that, because the bible says this:

Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:36-37

I think that God is instructing us that we should be a people of our word, always, no matter what. If you say something to someone, they should be able to count on the fact that because you said it, it will happen. I think there are two benefits that I note immediately,(1) it makes you an honest and trustworthy person. That's something we should all aspire to be. I think that (2)the second benefit is this, perhaps we will give our words more consideration before we make promises we can't or are unwilling to keep.

God is the author of the promise. He wrote an entire Book filled with them. God always keeps His promises.

That's actually an anchor point for me. Maybe THE anchor point in my life. I even have it written on my license plate frame, "God Always Keeps His Promises." I've seen it proven in my life time and time again. He's kept The Word (Bible) to me, as well as promises He made just to me. Not always in the way I thought, or in the timing I planned, but always, promises kept.

I've been privileged to experience His position (or something comparable to it) in a promise. Did that make sense? What I'm saying is, I've gotten to see the role the Lord takes in His promise to me... well, sort of.

I think of His promise, His covenant, of salvation to me. The promise He swore by Jesus' sacrifice. Unlike legal "covenants" today, where two parties enter in together, and responsibility is negotiated and divided, in the covenant of my salvation all the effort and sacrifice was done on God's part, all I had to do was accept it to receive the benefit. That's what adopting a child is like. You make all the sacrifice and effort to make this child a part of your family, and they just have to enter in and accept it. And it isn't breakable. I suppose in some manner it is, but not without a lot of leaping through hoops and back to do it.

What I mean is when I adopted Ethan, I guaranteed him an inheritance. Unlike Jacob and Victoria, whatever I have left behind when I die someday, I have to make provision for him. And unlike Jacob and Victoria who I could disown, I cannot do that to Ethan. He's stuck with me. My obligation to all my children may be moral, but only to Ethan is it legal and binding. Which is why I think the Lord describes his relationship with His children as that of adoption. He's bound to us, in an unbreakable covenant.

As a Christian there is another relationship that I am in that is considered a covenant promise. That is my marriage to Neal. In the world marriage isn't looked at that way. It's considered to be a contract with an unending list of outs, and it seems to me more and more people are taking them every day, and what really makes me sad is how many people I see doing it or even considering it in the church.

I wasn't actually a Christian when I got married, or at least I wasn't walking with the Lord. But when I became a Christian I certainly believe I retroactively became bound to a covenant marriage, or at least when we both became Christians I did. (And I did actually get married in a church, and it was a Christian ceremony, even if only out of tradition - so one could make an argument it was binding anyway.)

Although my contract of marriage (and all its loopholes) was a contract between two people, Neal and I, the covenant of our marriage is between three, Neal, myself and God. When I promised to love Neal in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, when I promised to cherish and honor him, I didn't just make the promise to Neal, I made it to God.

I'm glad for that truth, because I think it is the super glue that stands when the Elmer's runs thin. Marriage is hard. Don't misunderstand this post, at the moment my marriage is wonderful. I'd love to say with assurance that we've grown to a place that we don't struggle but I know the reality is, that it might not always be the way it is now. And so when those times come, I'm glad that I can stop and remember I didn't just make the promise to make our marriage work to Neal, I promised God I was in it for the long haul - "till death do us part." And I have no acceptable excuse to break my promise to God, because He's never broken a single one to me.

Now don't get all fired up and misunderstand me, I'm not judging anyone else, not on an individual basis anyway, but I am saying, If you are a Christian that before you are willing to walk away from a marriage, or even willing to consider it, you ought to really take inventory. Did you mean the words you said? The promises that you made? If perhaps your spouse doesn't seem deserving of your devotion, how about your God?

The reason you had to promise "for better or for worse" is because the worse will come, and it isn't a loophole or escape to end your marriage. As God's people, we should be keepers of our promises. Do I know there probably have to be exceptions? Perhaps, but there aren't as many as some think there are.

I'm rambling now, and maybe you're fighting to stay awake by this point in the post, but my heart is heavy - marriage is in trouble, there is an attack against this great institution created by God. And it isn't the big battles over definitions that we need to take heed, it's in our own churches, our neighborhoods, among our friends. Take heed. Fight for your marriage, it's a gift to you from the Lord, even if it isn't going the way you thought or hoped, you can only surrender your own will and participation, you can't change your spouse, but you can change your heart and allow God to work in you. I hope you will, it's worth it.

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