Friday, September 17, 2010

Keeping Our Promises to God

I often worry about what will happen if I do not keep a promise I made to the Lord. You know the kind I mean. In a desperate moment, you promise him something in exchange for a favor from him.

Sometimes it's a silly, frivolous promise, something we know that it's impossible for us to do on a long term commitment. I think in those cases, he understands, sorts of smiles down on us with patience and love, and shines it on. We often get what we ask for and we know he doesn't really expect us to follow through.

But there are other promises that we truly want to keep and hope to keep. What happens if we break such a promise? Will God take back the favor he granted us?

I remember a silly promise I made when I lived in southern California in the 80s and 90s. My younger sister had a hernia that needed surgery, and during the healing, the wound re-opened to a frightening degree. I was so worried about her that I just did not know what to offer the Lord in exchange for his healing my sister. At the time, I was hopelessly addicted to a new variety of Snickers candy bar - the peanut butter Snickers. In a rash moment, I promised I would give them up. It was all I could think of, and it was kinda silly when you look at all that I could have offered. Meanwhile, he did heal my sister more quickly than we could have expected. Ever since then, I have been terrified to eat a Peanut Butter Snickers (I think they took them off the market along the way). I was afraid her wound would re-open. I guess if they had them out on the shelves, I would be safe now because my sweet little sister has passed on.

Then there are the more serious promises. When my middle-aged nephew took this job as a cab driver, I knew it was not in his comfort zone, not anything he was truly suited for, but it was the only thing open when he needed it. I promised the Lord that if he got the job, and received enough grace and gifts of the Spirit to help him stay on the job, safely, I would get down on my knees every night and say 5 decades of the Rosary. Now you have to understand that my left knee is very unpredictable. I long ago gave up genuflecting in church whenever I get there. But somehow, I've kept that promise, every night. My nephew passed his first year on August 16th and is still there. There are some nights when I truly feel pain following through on my promise, but I manage, somehow. In early November, I will not be able to do that for about a week while some foot surgery heals, but I know he understands about that.

Back to the topic. Would my nephew lose his job if I stopped, if I neglected to keep my promise? Would my sister's wound have re-opened? There are many others promises, of course, that I've made through the years. When I look back, I am sure there are many I did not keep. I do not honestly remember anything coming back to haunt me because of that failure. So, I guess the Lord has much more patience with me, with us, than we often have with each other.

Father, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your patience, even with the silly promises I have made through the years, and thank you for the times you have granted favors requested.

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