Kimberly is devastatingly sweet. Her likability may only be outdone by her fashion sensibility. Without fail she exemplifies her profession every time I see her—she is a stage designer. She became good friends with my wife, Laura and they regularly enjoyed conversations and walks down the street between our apartments. Their friendship opened up Kimberly to not only share her joy, but also her pain. Though her husband, Sean used to be a pastor they only sporadically attended our church. Actually, Sean came once. Soon we discovered the weight of his “shameful actions” were too much for church leadership to help them carry, so they were asked to leave. Kimberly’s woundedness was complicated by her community’s unwillingness to extend grace and understanding. Our friend felt dirty and damaged.
Fridays are my day off. Within Christian circles we might call it a Sabbath or day of rest. Mine is on Friday; I know, not Sunday. We pastors have an ironic relationship with Sundays—“the official day of rest” is perhaps our most tiring of the week. Though this is quickly changing, historically Sundays have been set aside for rest—inside and outside the church. Shops used to be closed. Deliveries took a break. And people generally paused too. However with a decreasing inclination to allow religious principles (whatever those are) dictate social norms, Sundays are becoming just another day. And so we may still have “the weekend” but few have rhythmic rest. But if we’re honest the real issue is not a society full of non-religious norms, rather our ailment lies much deep. And if I can be honest, we pastors are often the chief of sinners.
Promises are powerful. Whether a parent promises to come their kid's baseball game or I promise my wife I will love her and be true to her "until death do us part” … promises are powerful. With words we regularly attempt to assure those around us of our character or behavior, particularly as it relates to the future. So making promises is a primary way our love and invisible qualities are revealed. But every promise involves risk. We risk words not become reality. And so when promises are made we decide whether we will organize our lives differently as a result. Either way—whether or not promises are kept—when we change our expectations or behaviors or plans our relationships are effected deeply. The more promises are made, trusted, and kept the stronger a relationship becomes. The opposite is also true. When promises are made and not kept our relationships grow weaker. This is our primary motivation for making and refrain from making or trusting in promises—we either want to strengthen our relationships or we are fearful to commit and risk harming them. Promises are powerful.
Life is hard. No matter who we are, we all experience difficulty. To be sure, the degree of life’s severity differs from person to person. As I write this, many around the world are experiencing heartbreaking realities (I am thinking most immediately of those affected by war in Aleppo and Mosul and the thousands of refugees seeking asylum around the world).
We had only known each other six months. But on the shore of Lake Michigan, I asked Laura to marry me and she said “yes.” Without a hitch, the popular passion of engagement hit me immediately. We called everyone and relived each moment with all of our friends and family from start to finish. However, something else hit me almost as quickly. As much as I was absolutely taken by this woman, within a few days I felt my feelings sink. That’s right, on the other side of proposing I was feeling my feelings change.
Before my wife and I put our children to sleep, we sing a song and pray. Recently, they started picking up our routine. My daughter sings along. My son mumbles noises shaped like the melody. They slightly bow their heads and say amen. I’m fully aware they are mostly unaware of the details and depth of the Christian faith woven through the song and prayer. But they are picking up on something.