Tuesday, December 15, 2009

but you promised!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of promise.

We have a God who makes a lot of promises to us. Seriously, the Bible is fulllllll of them! Promises of forgiveness, eternal salvation, peace, deliverance in days of trouble...He promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Intense, huh? And we can be assured that he is an unwavering, good, and perfect God, and that his promises are finite and sound. They will not be forgotten. He will not fail to deliver those promises to each and every one of us.

So then I realized: People make a lottttttt of promises, too. In the form of spoken words, yeah...but they come from everywhere. A hug, a smile, a repeated action, a gift, emotional and physical intimacy. Stuff like this can feel like a promise, I think, even if that wasn't the intent. We're always making promises to family and friends, and to ourselves, and sometimes to God.

And so I'm wondering: How did we, human beings-- broken, faulty, flawed creatures-- create this concept of human promise? Because to be frank, our promises SUCK. They cannot even really be promises, can they? If, as the dictionary says, a promise is "a declaration that something will or will not be done; an express assurance on which expectation is to be based," then I'm wondering if humans even have the capacity to make promises. How can we declare that something WILL be done? How can we tell someone "I promise to..." or "I swear I will..." and ask them to base their expectation and hope on our word? We're imperfect, we're sinful, and we certainly aren't all-knowing or all-powerful. What can a promise be apart from God?

Human promises are shaky, shaky things. And we allow them have a lot of weight in our lives. We make serious decisions based on promises we've made and promises others have made to us. Relationships are the framework for pretty much every venture we'll ever make-- and each relationship inevitably springs from promises, whether they're stated explicitly or just implied. Somtimes, broken promises break relationships, and then entire lives can feel broken.

I don't think all this means we shouldn't make promises. It doesn't mean we shouldn't accept promises from others, either. People certainly merit our trust and optimism, and we have such great opportunity to glorify God when we do follow through on a promise. And I'm thinking it'd be hard to get through life without the web of human promises we're all involved in.

But I do think it means we realize the brokenness of people. I think it means we see God and his Godly standard for promise, but hold humans to human standards. It means we offer people grace and love and forgiveness when they break promises. And it means that if you have ever broken a promise, that Jesus offers never-ending forgiveness to you.

I think ultimately, it means that if we claim to follow Christ, then we acknowledge that he CAN and DOES make "a declaration that something will or will not be done; an express assurance on which expectation is to be based." We remember his promises, and we place every ounce of hope we have in him alone. And we absolutely rejoice in this. :)

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