How big of a deal are promises to you?

When people promise you something, do you really COUNT on it? Or do you suspect that there are some chances that they won’t live into or up to their promises and they simply won’t come true?

I don’t know about you, but to me, promises are a HUGE deal!

If someone promises me something, then I count on it, trusting that it will come to fruition.

Loyalty is pivotal to me (people who study birth order say it is the product of being an only child). To the people I am committed to, I’m loyal almost to a fault (or an annoyance! Ha!)  But in return, I have high expectations of people who profess loyalty to me.

What’s that got to do with anything?

A lot, actually.

Because today – I am promising you something.

As we continue to try to figure out what in the world “church” looks like in today’s society and the world, I remembered back to a pretty crappy experience from 24 years ago.

I was beginning my pursuit of ordination as a deacon in the United Methodist Church, and I was completing my psychological evaluation. (Yes, I did pass it!)

As a part of the eval process, several different evaluations had to be completed on my behalf and one was from a colleague. At that point, I’d just begun ministry so I only had one person really that I knew well enough to do an eval for me. She was a colleague from First Methodist Hickory and she/I had attended a Christian Education seminar in Chicago previously that summer.

At that seminar, there was a gentleman speaking, Marcus Borg. He said things about “Jesus” that to my very literal Southern Baptist heritage were borderline heresy. I was SO self-righteous, I literally QUIT listening . . . and later in the room, when my colleague shared she’d purchased the tapes from the seminar I was appalled.

“How could you? What he said was SO not true!?!? Did you HEAR the analogies he used when referring to scripture and its contextual history and accuracy? I cannot believe they had him speak at a national conference . . .”

His words that day really had unsettled me. He caused me to think about Jesus in ways I had never imagined. And some of the ideas that I’d clung to all my life could very well have been untrue.

Flash forward to my psych eval consultation. The psychiatrist shared with me the feedback of all my evaluators.

“Is unwilling to be flexible in her opinion and is unwilling to learn to see things from all sides and perspectives. This will be a huge hindrance in ministry if she is unwilling to change.”

My colleague nailed me. And was oh so accurate. I’m so glad she had the courage to say those things about me.

Years later I wrote her a thank you note, telling her that her feedback single-handedly changed the way I approached faith and ministry.

Today . . . I promise you . . . If you will be willing to not always approach church/faith/life with, “This is what I am expecting and it BETTER be what I’m looking for or I’m outta here” . . . . If you will be willing to breathe, take a step back and listen and see with fresh ears and eyes, there is no limit to the ways that God will be able to work within you. I am a different human being than I was 25 years ago (thank God!)

It’s because of a hard lesson I had to learn. I’m not always right and EVERY SINGLE SITUATION has something it can teach me.

I invite you to do the same. We will be better people and a healthier church because of it.