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Controlling the Unpredictable—The Power of Promising
This article originally appeared in the January 21, 1983 issue of Christianity Today.
Somewhere a father is telling himself, "I wish my daughter would pack up, leave home, and never come back; God knows she has driven us crazy." But he remembers a promise he made when she was baptized, and he sticks with her in hurting love.
Somewhere a woman is telling herself, "I want to get out of this marriage and start over with someone who really loves me; God knows the clod I married has given me reason for cashing him in." But she remembers a promise she made when she married him and she sticks with him in hopeful love.
Somewhere a minister is telling himself, "I want to chuck this job and get into something with a better payoff; God knows my congregation has given me second-degree burnout." But he remembers the promise he made when he was ordained, and he sticks with the church in pastoral love.
Some people still make promises and keep those they make. When they do, they help make life around them more stably human. Promise keeping is a powerful means of grace in a time when people hardly depend on each other to remember and live by their word.
Some people still have ships they will not abandon, even when the ship seems to be sinking.
Some people still have causes they will not desert, even though the cause seems lost.
Some people have loved ones they will not forsake, even though they are a pain in the neck.
But why? Why make any promises at all? And if you do make them, why keep them? Why not tune in to growth and change and the maximizing of your feelings? Why worry about a word once spoken, or about a memory that binds you to that word? Promise keeping may be a sucker's game: sticking with what you stuck yourself with. That may be the ...1