Take a Vow

March 16th, 2012

The recent movie The Vow explores a situation that would be a nightmare for any married couple: Following a violent car accident, a young woman wakes in the hospital with no memory of her husband—no marriage, no dating, no falling in love. She simply has no idea who he is. In her mind she is still in college and has never met the man who claims to be her husband.

For one couple the horror was real. The Vow is based on the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, who suffered just such an ordeal in 1993. Their journey of faith and commitment involved falling in love again through months of therapy and counseling. Krickitt had to learn to love a man she no longer knew; Kim had to learn to love the woman his wife had become. Both clung to the sincerity of the vows they had taken, wanting to do everything possible to honor the covenant they had made. Three years later they married again, not to replace the vows from the first marriage but to give back to Krickitt the memory of having made that commitment.

It Is What It Is

The Carpenters’ story is a powerful one, particularly in an age where the divorce rate hovers around 50 percent. Every day people take vows and make promises that they don’t really intend to keep. These promises range from clicking on user agreements without actually reading the terms and conditions to taking the vows of church membership without giving much thought to what the vows actually entail.

Too often we aren’t willing to dig in and stick it out through hard times to honor an agreement or promise. If things don’t work out, we might say, “It is what it is,” and move on. Why is it so hard to commit when we commit?

Manufacturers have taken note of the lifespan of our interest in commitment. Your grandparents bought a certain brand of tools or appliances because they had a lifetime replacement guarantee. Several decades ago people judged the things they purchased according to how long they would last and how easily they could be maintained. Contrast that with the disposable nature of much of what we purchase today; throwaway razors, single-use contact lenses, and disposable diapers represent the change in how we approach life. Some of that change is good; but what does it say about our concept of commitment when we willingly sign a two-year contract for a cell phone that we already know we’ll probably only want for half that long?

All In

We may never reverse the tide of consumer culture, but when it comes to spiritual things, we need to reengage the idea of long-term commitment. Entire congregations pledge lifetime devotion to babies at their baptisms. Are the churches as committed to the little ones they baptize as they say they are? Young people coming through confirmation make similar lifelong vows. How well do they understand the weight of those promises? Do they understand the difference between saying, “I will so order my life,” and, “You know, unless it doesn’t work out”?

Promises were once bound in covenant form, much like the covenant expressed in the liturgy of baptism or joining a local congregation. The Bible is full of covenants between God and God’s people. Scripture shows us how God is always faithful to God’s promises and how we often fall short of being faithful to ours. God’s Word also reminds us that a covenant is a two-way commitment and that we have a responsibility to that commitment. Too often the church is reluctant to ask young people to make big commitments. So many of them are overcommitted already. But youth, like all of us, need to know that God has already made a commitment to us and that, in return, God deserves an honest response.

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