Thursday, April 24, 2014

Promises Promises

My wife has worked very hard on me for over 8 years.  By God's grace and my bride's tenacious stubbornness I have grown in many ways.  I don't "soak" the dishes in the sink for a few days, clothes get put away, I clean up BEFORE it is requested of me, and, most importantly, I am getting better at listening and not just looking for an opportunity to interject my thoughts(still got a ways to go there, but we're working on it!)

The area where I hurt my wife the most is when I didn't(and sometimes still don't) keep promises.  Nothing "huge".  Just those little ones I(and probably you) have a tendency to flippantly throw out there.  Like, I PROMISE I will remember to take out the trash, I PROMISE I will take that out of the oven in exactly 30 minutes, I PROMISE I will get "that" done tomorrow.....

Why did I break all of those promises all the time.  Because I was just making promises because I thought that is what she wanted to hear.  It's not that I didn't care about those things at all, I just cared more about her being pleased with me in that moment and how her being pleased with me made me feel good about myself.  They were self-serving promises.  And once they had served their purpose(making me feel like a good husband for giving them) they were easily forgotten as other things came up. 

She wasn't so mad about what I didn't get done, she was mad that I had promised to do them.  At the end of the day it wasn't earth shattering if I forgot to take out the trash, but it was hurtful that I had degraded my integrity and the value of my word so much. 

Why do we make these silly little promises so often?

Because we want to make people feel good about us(that's selfishness).  We care more about the promise than the task.  And we make promises that are just plain stupid to make.  There is nothing wrong with making a promise.  But we devalue a promise by making it about everything. 

A promise should be a commitment rooted deeply in selflessness, not selfishness.  IE, I promise to love you till death do us part, I promise to stand by you no matter what, etc.  When we begin to swear to every little thing that crosses our path we find ourselves constantly getting in unwinnable situations. 

Think about the boss or co-worker who never says no.  They want to be liked and be successful so they agree to take on every assignment.  And they don't complete any of them well.  Consequently, they never succeed.  I read once that to be a good leader requires the courage and integrity to say no quite liberally. 

In Matthew 5 we are told to let our yes be yes AND our no be no.  Making a bunch of oaths and promises is a terrible thing and comes from a terrible place.  It leads us no where good.

What got me thinking about all of this is the story of Herod and John the Baptist in Matthew 14.  Herod kinda likes this crazy Prophet from the wilderness, but knows he is a bit of a problem.  His wife, Herodias, wants him dead.  So she sets up a little trap.  She has her daughter(who was actually Herod's niece) do a big dance for him at his party.  We are pretty sure from the context that it was not how we say, an "appropriate for family audiences" dance.  Herod is pretty taken by it, and in front of everyone, to look magnanimous and impressive, makes an official Oath that she can have whatever she wants.  She, thanks to her mothers scheming, asks for John the Baptists head. 

Herod is trapped, he can't lose face in front of everyone.  He made an official oath.  So, he has John beheaded.

What are you making promises about?  And why are you making them?

It is time for us to stop just trying to look good and impress people.  But to actually do good and not be too concerned with the praise we may receive.  My wife doesn't need me to promise her the moon.  She just needs to know that my yes means yes and my no means no. 

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