Promises – The Anchor for Our Futures

Brass bookends

I attended a wedding this weekend where my husband was the photographer and I acted as his assistant. It spurred me to think about the seriousness of promises we make throughout our lifetime.

In the excitement of the moment on such an occasion as a wedding day, it’s easy to agree to things willy-nilly. But how many people really understand what they’re getting into? I know a woman who told a friend of hers, “If you were my husband I would’ve left you a long time ago.” Really? Even though a longer time ago you would’ve made promises saying you wouldn’t?

It’s a sad commentary that so many people take promises so lightly these days. And if you are a spiritual person, it’s especially serious, I think, if you’ve made those promises before the Almighty God of the universe.

I think I’ve figured out something that bears discussing, or at least contemplating. The promises we make are not meant for the present moment, when it’s easy to promise anything. They’re made for the future when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will.

When promising to love “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others,” most people are in pretty good health, know where their next meal is coming from, and are so smitten that they have no desire to flirt with anyone else, ever. The promises seem like just a formality, something to make it worthwhile for the guests to show up.

I propose that the promises are actually meant for the future, when sickness or poverty strikes and other difficulties which shake the foundations of a relationship. THAT’S when you need the promises to take effect. THAT’S when you need to believe and trust the other person to stick to what they said they’d do.

Promises made soberly and with thought are a gigantic leap into the unknown. It takes a special person to make that leap and decide well ahead of time, “I don’t know what will happen, but I’m here for the long haul. Nothing can drive me away. You’re stuck with me, no matter what.”

Business and legal contracts ought to be viewed the same way. People need to be able to count on us, and vice versa. Sure, there may be some exceptional circumstances. If another person doesn’t keep his promises with you, you have no obligation, and perhaps that makes you physically unable to keep those agreements. But be careful in looking for an “out”. Promises are meant to develop our integrity and to keep order and stability in our life, to give us something sturdy to hold onto when the powerful winds blow.

Will the couple I saw make promises this weekend take them seriously many years from now? I hope so. Promises are not meant for the now, when they are easily and lightly made. They are meant for the future when their substance will be needed.

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