Its been coming to me recently how hard it is to actually ‘promise’ something. I guess its because in the past I have not been all that good at following through on the commitment behind the promise.
Somehow the words “I promise” have ended up having a somewhat sinister meaning, but I am a bit unsure why. Its that feeling of accountability, no space to move, no wriggle room. A commitment is a commitment. A promise is a promise. Final.
So to say instead “I will try” instead of “I promise” gives a little of the above-mentioned wriggle room, a bit of space for leniency, if required. However, to the reader, or the hearer of those words, the message received is quite different. They hear that I am not willing to even bother to commit. That in my heart the decision has been made already. “I will try” becomes “I have an out”.
Thats tough. Thats not what was meant at all. Or is it?
Let’s unpack some reasons… for me anyway. Sometimes I find unpacking something like this will reveal the root, or somewhere close to the root of where the problem may have began.
My children when young would often pull me up on a commitment they felt I had made by saying (more of a wail, admittedly) “but you promised …” To which I would reply, “No, I said we might.” I felt this was a fair call, as it gave me an out, just in case things didn’t work out, and we weren’t able to go to the place I had originally thought about (be it McDonalds, the park, or whatever).
Even they knew – even when young, that if a person said they would do something, then they would do it … not a might, not a maybe, but a WILL.
Perhaps I didn’t have the actual will to see it through.
Perhaps it depended on the circumstances at the time?
Either way, I needed that space, that wriggle-room – just in case.
Just the other day, it was suggested to me that it is time to redeem the words, I promise. To recognise the power in those words. The intent given. The life. The statement of intention. A vow.
But to ‘redeem’ suggests that at some point I had tossed them out altogether. Mmm perhaps I had, unwittingly, or maybe, on purpose.
Was it ever my intention to marry – then to divorce those years ago? Is it ever anyone’s intention to do that? After all, the very words, “I promise to marry you…. for better or worse … till death do us part” are said out loud, they have powerful meaning and usually have a number of witnesses to bear down on you if you are looking to be on shaky ground in the marriage.
Perhaps it is the fear of the words and what they mean that is more of the issue.
‘This is it. Decision made. This is my life now. Linked to another person, taking on their name and identity and somehow, over time, to lose one’s own.
Is that the root of the issue? Or is it deeper?
When I think of the word redeem, I think of Jesus redeeming us from the power of sin. His very death and resurrection showed the power he had over the enemy, Satan. Because Jesus went through on his commitment to us – we can live our lives in the safe assurance of knowing that we have a future with him.
I am comfortable with that. I know that the Word of God is accurate, true and reliable. The promises Jesus made in his Word are positive and true. We even sing the old song, ‘I’m standing on the promises of God.”
So why is it so hard for us as humans, to say the words, I promise? I think I am still working that out. Watch this space.