Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Gift of Commitment

My mom and dad have been married over 30 years now. In the eyes of the world, they should have separated soon after they wed. Most of my childhood was spent watching them avoid each other, tell lies, throw dishes, write nasty notes, drink behind locked doors, work really long hours. Maybe that was hurtful for a growing child. I'd have to argue that it was well worth the fight. The one consistent thing they could agree on was that divorce was not Godly, for any reason whatsoever, and that even if they lived separately they would do their best for me. My junior year of high school, my dad found a new defintion of the Lord, his name is Jesus. And their marriage is a miracle most will never experience. Because they were commited.

It's so interesting to me now that i've entered the marital world, how many of my friends don't agree with the long commitment my parents still hold to. Friends who trust the Lord. Friends who stood before God and asked wholeheartedly that He would bind them together with this person next to them, forever. I have this vision of God, looking at us while we stand there, and we look like small children. There's a lesson in that commitment. In fact, there will be lesson upon lesson along the way. That's the gift.

Now some people will say i am absolutely crazy when i say this next part, and that's okay. It seems absurd to me that anyone would see it any differently, so we can just make fun of each other! :) I see the same gifts in the commitments we make to our children, to our families, our friends, to the teams we join, our jobs, even to our pets! That's right, i absolutely do.

When God made man, Adam, he gave him the earth to enjoy. Then he gave him the animals. He even asked Adam to name them, each and every one. Now hear me out, i know man still holds the image of God here on earth, and that they didn't satisfy him entirely. So early in creation he was already so human, unlike God. So he gave him a wife made from his own chest, to take care of, to enjoy, to teach and to learn from. Even that fulfillment didn't keep them from sin, because they'll always really only need God, that's the choice we all have to make. OK, here's my point. Neither one of those are necessary for fulfillment in the Lord, they're both gifts. Not every person needs one or the other, sometimes neither, sometimes they enjoy both. But why oh why, would we consider one commitment we make in this world less than another.

The gift of commitment is not in the thing we are commited to, but the commitment itself. My mom may admit that my dad wasn't the best choice for her to marry, but she's learned so much from their commitment and has been blessed in that marriage after many trials and prevails! I may seem a fool to most for the amount of money we spend on our babies, the dogs, to keep them healthy, i am entirely commited to them, in the same way i am commited to serving the Lord in every facet of life that i possibly can! And i've tasted the gift, i cherish it! It is from the Lord!!!

It is as simple as a parent teaching a child commitment. When they want a puppy, what does mom ask? "Will you wash it, take it for walks, train it, pick up it's poop, take care of it when it's hurt?" Don't you think God asks the same thing of us when we take on something that is so precious in this world. It's a commitment we make. It should be honored. And when it's not, there's a whole lot we don't learn!

My pet peeve in anything is when people tell me what i will and will not be or do based almost entirely on what they did. Here's an example we can agree on...when you are at a party of mostly drinkers, and you're not drinking, inevidably someone will ask you to partake, they may nag you, call you prude, etc. The heart of the matter, i believe, is that it would make them feel better about doing it if everyone else were. If you don't, you've just changed the standard and that's uncomfortable for people who so desperatley want to fit in.

Now that i'm pregnant, i get comments that i can't even keep up with about what my interests will and will not be when i have this child. For example, I will totally love Oprah and watch it avidly, i will start to scrap book all my baby pictures, my dogs will start living outside, i'll gain weight no matter what i do, it goes on and on.

Maybe it's just the stubborn only child in me who says i don't have to listen to any of it. But the truth is, i don't. My commitment is with the Lord, and that will hopefully unveil itself through every other commitment i've made! And that's all anyone can predict about me, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, you can hold me to it!


John Lynch said...

Hi Ivy! Thanks for this post. I've been thinking about it; and it's stirred some thought in me...

...like, first, I am so glad your parents held the line. Often, if not always, the solution to our crises is simply a matter of waiting - especially waiting on the Lord. We're so quick to assume if we don't have what we "need" now, then we'll never have it & we'd better jump ship immediately. Their testimony is encouraging.

Also, I love your sensitivity to what God has made. You are a good steward... committed to what God's given you. Your comments on commitment got me thinking...

I wonder if sometimes we not only err on the side of unfaithfulness but also on the side of over-faithfulness to commitments we've made. For example, I know women who, this day, stay with their abusive husbands because of their marriage commitment...even while their children are being physically abused. I wonder if sometimes, erring on the side of over-commitment is worse than under-commitment.

It seems to me that it's an issue of limits. All commitments have limits... or at least should (save One). I wonder if we should take more time to consider where the limits for our various commitments are & where they should be?

For instance, we should unconditionally love our spouse, but our commitments to them need to have clear paramaters or limits... e.g. our commitment to live with our spouses should not bind us if they physically abuse our children. That is a limit or condition - & a good one. And when they come back into the limits of our commitment (i.e. no more abuse) we can, again, act on our commitment to live with them.

So I wonder where our limits should be with our spouses, children, pets, houses, favorite hobbies, etc. They are all different commitments, each with different limits of how far is too far & how much is too much.

What do you think?

ivy said...

ok johnny, here's what was on my heart all night one night, i love this comment stuff, it's so challenging! :) you tell me what you think!

I guess i still don't agree that there are limits. In fact, i think that's what makes us blend in with the world, when we accept those limits as good enough excuses. i also think that if we were to take every committment as seriously, we'd probably think a lot longer, pray a lot harder, before we screwed things up again, as we are so good at doing. :)

I can't get the image of Christ out of my mind, the one where He is being beaten and literally torn, all for the refining of our sin. It was the biggest commitment He made here on earth, though i'd be willing to bet, not the only one, and not the only one He kept diligently. He could've walked away, He could've denied what He'd been here for all along. He could've said just what they wanted to hear if only to cease the pain. No one, nor I, would've blamed him after all He had been going through. In fact, everyone, even the closest to Him, thought He was absolutely crazy for holding to any committment that would harm Him as it did. He was set apart. His committment was the utmost of examples.
To clarify, I would not, however, expect anyone to stay in a place where they were being abused or hurt. But looking down from a bigger picture, i don't see an escape there as far as the commitment. That is, move away, make sure you are safe!!! absolutely and please do so!!! But you did stand before God and make a convenant, that in God's eyes blood was shed over. A promise forever, no matter what, to love and literally become one with that person. That may be from far away, it may even be hard from there. But if Christ can do what He did on that cross, than i think we can handle at least that. If we still understand that we're all in the same boat, that is, that we're all scum but we can all find redemption, than why do we get to decide when is a fair time to give up on someone else, and in any committment there is someone else involved. why would we believe that we deserve so much perfection in our lives, so many excuses to try and try again. We already have the chance to be saved! What do we really have to complain about. If my marriage were to turn sour, even to the point of physical abuse, i would hold myself committed no matter if it meant as separated as possible, for our own safety. but i don't necessarily deserve the chance to re-marry and find another eternal bliss and shed more blood over another committment. i'm in over my head with the one, what i need is Christ, and He's available!!!
And so, I don't see much room for limits in committments, i think it would make our world a better place, a more Christ-like place, if we took them more seriously. I do know that God forgives, redeems, saves, and loves unconditionally. That tells me that no matter where i go wrong, i'm still His child, and so is anyone else! I think there is absolutely a reason why there is no limit to the committment we make in Christ. That kind of committment is Christ-like. Life's pain and injustice is our refiner's fire. We would be crazy and totally set apart to act that way sometimes, but isn't that what we're called to be?

John Lynch said...

Hi Ivy... Thanks for the dialogue!

What I hear you saying is that you desire to be faithful to your promises... whatever your promises are. That's awesome! What I'm suggesting, however, is that not all of our promises should be unconditional... and not all commitments are the same.

Perhaps the word COVENANT is better than COMMITMENT in this sense. God's covenant with Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) was without limits (or conditions); but His covenant with Israel (Mosaic Covenant) DID have limits (or conditions)... in fact, it was because Israel failed to keep their end that God enforced the limits of His commitment/covenant by sending them into exile. So some promises or covenants we make with few or no conditions/limits (like marriage); but some have many more conditions (like a business contract). If your boss doesn't pay you, he/she has broken the conditions of the covenant & you are free from its requirements (i.e. showing up to work every day).

Let's go back to marriage again... That's a commitment/covenant/promise we make, yet not without conditions. Christ Himself said though all divorce is outside of His desire, an adulterous partner frees one from the human-marriage covenant (Mt 19). Implications could also be drawn from that example onto other situations, like violent spousal abuse, child abuse, etc.

Speaking of children, it seems to me that while they're a clear responsibility I don't see the presence of covenant or promise. Pets, creation, finances, even our cars are also responsibilities (of lesser measure)... but still not covenant or promise scenarios.

So with creation or pets or even children the question is perhaps more one of responsibility than commitment. Also, it strikes me that just because we can do something to fulfill some responsibility, doesn't mean we should (like stealing to feed our kids or going into deep credit card debt to pay off a loved one's bills). That's the message of faith, letting God be God without assuming His responsibilities.

What do you think?