Friday, May 15, 2015

He Does What He Said He Would Do

It's all about love
She grows frailer by the day.  The vigorous outdoor activities that they loved to do together are far beyond her now as is rising from the couch, bathing herself and using the toilet alone. 
He's a macho guy with health problems of his own, but these days he's her whole world.  With the tenderness of a mother and the strength of father, he tends to her.  He's an indifferent cook, so often he wheels her out to the truck and gently levers her inside for a run through the drive through.


It would be an insult to his great faithfulness to ask him why he does it.  Once more than 50 years ago he vowed..."in sickness and in health."  He couldn't have imagined this winter of age in the spring of his youth, but those words meant something then, and they still do today.

Faithfulness is a vastly underrated commodity.  In fact we live in such a fickle and feckless world that it seems no one even knows what it means anymore.  Faithfulness is more than just refraining from having sex with someone other than your spouse.  It's doing what you said you're going to do.

Moses gives this warning:
If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:1 see also Deuteronomy 23:21-23)
But keeping your word isn't just an Old Testament idea; Jesus calls us to be such people of our word that there is no need for us to make grand protestations and vows - our "yes" will be sufficient (Matthew 5:33-37).

Why all this emphasis on keeping our word, especially when we give it God?  Because faithfulness is deeply rooted in his character.  The tricky to translate Hebrew word "hesed" is frequently used to describe God (Deuteronomy 7:9-12, 1 Kings 8:23, Isaiah 54:10, Jeremiah 9:24 and a host of others).  Although it is often translated "lovingkindness," the basic meaning of the word is loyalty.  An alternative translation would be "covenant faithfulness." 

In other words, when God promises something you can take it to the bank; he ALWAYS does what he says he will do. 

Can you imagine if God, the divine husband, had abandoned Israel when the going got tough?  (If you can, I'd like to suggest the book of Hosea for some light bedtime reading).  Yet there are examples all around us of vows being abandoned.  In sickness and in health becomes unless my spouse suffers a mental illness.  In richer and in poorer becomes unless the economy tanks, you lose your job, and I get tired of pouring money into you.  To love and to cherish becomes unless I fall out of love with you.  Promising these things "until death do us part" seems almost unrealistic in the world of no fault divorce. 

Yet I have never been on the verge of a divorce, never said, "If something doesn't change, I'm out of here." In fact, no great tragedies have plagued us. So what does all this talk of faithfulness have to do with me? Faithfulness, as the elderly couple in my church illustrates, is the evidence of things unseen.  For them faithfulness in the end of life was lived out day after day for the preceding 50 years. Thus, if I would be faithful to my vows, I must begin today.  I must be kind and patient to my grumpy man when he has a cold. And if he breaks an ankle (probably because he thought he was 20 again), I won't snarl I told you so, I'll just be doing all the running for our family for a while.  If he's between jobs, I'll work and believe in him that work is coming.  If money is tight, I'll be a trustworthy budgeter and content myself with what we have.  If he's easy to love, I'll love him.  If he's hard to love, I'll love him anyway.  It won't be easy but it doesn't matter, because I promised.   Let me say it again, faithfulness means doing what you said you would do.

Marriage is a mystery.  It is a picture of Christ and his church and of God and his people.   It is not some kind of martyrdom or some massive sacrifice.  It's just love and keeping his promise.  That's something every person who dares to take marriage vows should be prepared to do.

Helene

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