Tag Archives: vows

Oaths and Vows

“Now is the hour! Riders of Rohan! Oaths you have taken, now fulfill them all, to lord and land!” – Eomer, The Return of the King.

I love the Rohirrim.

Forth, Eorlingas!
If we’re going to die, we’re taking a lot of you with us.

When I read the books as a kid, I did not grasp the power of their commitment to their oaths. I didn’t really consider that they were riding to presumed death because “we promised.” Consider this conversation:

Gamling: We do not have the numbers to defeat the armies of Mordor.

Theoden: No, we do not. Yet we will meet them in battle nonetheless.

Why? Because honor and oaths demanded it.

4 When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.
– Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NASB

Oaths are powerful, so long as they are upheld. But they really only matter to the one who makes the oath and the one to whom it is made.

The lap of luxury
Life is an aisle-way, I’m gonna scoot it all night long…

Wal-Mart’s customers aren’t held to fitness standards. I know, that’s a real news flash, right? (I’ll skip links to unfortunate pictures of Wal-Mart customers.)

Imagine walking into your local Wal-Mart and stopping random folk to conduct a weight and waist measurement. Try conducting an impromptu fitness test on the first person you see riding around on a scooter cart. How many push-ups and sit-ups can they do in a minute?

You’re not going to have much luck.

No one would expect you to, either.

On 28 Dec 1994, I stood in the MEPS center in Chicago and raised my right hand. I swore an oath of enlistment. At that moment, a new set of standards applied to me… standards I wasn’t even fully aware of at the time. I would soon learn about all the various regulations that my superiors expected me to follow. And if I ever failed to uphold standards, I was reminded that this was a voluntary choice on my part. No one drafted me. No one held a gun to my head. I raised my right hand of my own free will.

In January of 1997, I remember kneeling at the altar of my church and re-dedicating my life to Christ, not just as the “Get Out of Hell Free” Savior but as the “Not my will but Yours be done” Lord. No one forced me to my knees or put words in my mouth. I made a choice.

I wonder what would happen if I went into Wal-Mart to give a spiritual fitness test to random customers. “These are the standards. It’s all written here in the ‘regs’ of the Bible. This is what you need to measure up to. How’s your prayer life? When was the last time you served someone in need? More than simply walking into a church, have you connected with like-minded people in the last year?”

I might have better success than I would with the AF PT test, but that’s beside the point.

The question is, have those people made a commitment that demands adherence to the same spiritual standards I follow? Did they raise their right hands to God and swear an oath, or fall on their knees to dedicate their lives to Him?

If not, then why should I expect them to live up to my religious standards?

My wife has often asked, “Why are we trying to hold the world to our standards? They aren’t followers of Christ. Why should we expect them to live like something they’re not?”

Maybe we followers of Christ need to focus on how well we’re measuring up to our own standards first.

In the Air Force, I failed to meet PT standards. Now I’m working to correct that. I can look around and say, “But that guy looks fat in uniform. And those civilians are really out of shape. And I know a lady who can’t run to save her life but she gets an Excellent because she’s a twig.”

None of them are taking my test for me. I raised my hand. I swore an oath. I have a standard to uphold.

Some will say, “But what about preaching against sin? Jesus didn’t just love people. He also said,

‘Go and sin no more.'”

Absolutely. But I’m concerned with the way we communicate that message.

NOT made of vitamins
You mean they’re NOT healthy?

I could walk in to Wal-Mart and yell or even gently discuss all the facts about heart disease and proper nutrition and the benefits of exercise. I could make it as simple as “Eat less, move more.”

People already know that. I don’t think anyone would have a sudden epiphany. “You mean the food I eat and the sitting on the couch I do all day is making me fat? Thank you! I never understood where it was coming from!”

I think the message on a lot of sin has already gotten out there. When we rant against favorite target sins like homosexuality, pornography, and abortion, we’re saying what people already know. “The Church thinks porn is BAD?”

Also NOT healthy
This is bad for me too? Why didn’t someone tell me?

When we focus so much on telling people their faults, many times, we’re repeating what they’ve already heard. And we’re probably talking to people with absolutely no interest in what we have to say.

In most cases, people pursued Jesus. They wanted to hear what He had to say, because He ministered to them. In some cases, He initiated the conversation, and even then, He first demonstrated something to give them a reason to listen.

When we are in relationship with people, or when we demonstrate love through genuine action instead of mere words, people might care to hear what we have to say.

We need not and must not ignore the detrimental effects of sin. We must be honest about that. Yet we need not be combative or prideful in our efforts. The collateral damage we do in that case far outweighs any momentary benefits.

May we focus on the oaths we have taken, the vows we have made. May we show ourselves faithful. Because I suspect when people see that we are real and our love is sincere, they might even start caring what we have to say.

And we might be able to say it right.

14 Years

On June 28, 1998, my wife and I shared personal wedding vows and said, “I do.”

We were in the backyard of Jami’s grandparents’ house in Pueblo, Colorado. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon with a clear blue sky.

We had planned to take Communion for the first time as a married couple after the marriage was finalized and the vows were declared. The pastor we asked to officiate the wedding was not comfortable with us taking Communion outside a church building, so we spoke with a close friend who was also an ordained minister, and he performed that portion of our wedding.

As “luck” would have it, we took Communion as two individuals at the church service that morning. So we had this nice bookend on our wedding day — receiving the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us as two separate individuals, and then later that same day, receiving the same symbol as one flesh in the sight of God and men.

It was pretty awesome.

For fourteen years, my wife and I have stuck it out, working hard to keep up the commitment to those vows we made.

Reciting words is easy. Living them out, not so much.

We’ve had our moments.

I remember a time about a year after we got married. I had successfully hidden my video game habits from my geographically separated bride-to-be, but my new wife who was living in the same house quickly became aware of just how much time I spent at the computer or the PlayStation.

(Yes, now we’re going back in time to the 1st generation PlayStation.)

Needless to say, there were… tensions. My wife had some crazy expectation that I would spend time with her, but I was too busy playing Jane’s Fighter Anthology and such on my PC.

It took a couple years of straining her patience, but one day I came home from work to find all my games had disappeared. She had hidden them. Not only that… she had placed a ransom note next to the XBox to let me know that I was not going to get the games back until I spent some quality time on a regular basis with her.

I was livid… mostly because I knew she was right.

A few years ago, we got into a fight. For the life of me, I can’t remember why. But we were both on the offensive, throwing verbal jabs back and forth, trying to score a hit with our words, becoming meaner and meaner with each volley of words. 

Then, right after I shot some insult or angry rebuttal at her, she put her hand on my cheek, told me that she loved me, and kissed me passionately. I’m sure everything natural in her wanted to fire back and cut me deeply with some response. But she stopped me cold, completely disarming my hostility. How do you argue with that? 

You don’t. I didn’t.

We were able to stop and realize we’re on the same side. We were able to figure out how to proceed as a team instead of as rivals.

Again, I have no idea why we were fighting, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that she demonstrated remarkable love, something I can only hope on my best days to emulate. 

And of course, she’s had her moments of doubt, of fear, of failure, of frustration. She’s had those days where she needs to be reminded that my love for her isn’t based on some evaluation of her performance or how well she measures up to my perfectionist standard. My love for her is based on the fact that it’s her we’re talking about.

She puts up with being marginalized and ignored if it means that I get recognized. I try not to let this happen, because my wife is pretty awesome and undeniably talented in various areas. But she’ll step out of the spotlight if it means I get recognized for something I’ve done. 

She is truly the most unselfish person I know.

My Bordermarches story? She’s heard every version of that and then some.

“What if Lyllithe was a NINJA!”  No, dear.

“Maybe Lyllithe is a robot.” Really? That’s…. nice.

“What if the world was secretly an alternate universe?”  Stop watching Fringe so much, honey.

She puts up with a lot.

I think back to our wedding, and to my proposal long before that.

I had to keep it hidden, because I really wanted to surprise her. We would go for long walks and share our hearts as we spent time together. I waited for one of these walks as my opportunity.

It was April 2nd. I figured I better wait until the 2nd, because proposing on April 1st might send a bad message.

I had her ring on my pinky finger, and I was trying my best to keep it hidden. 

There was a small bridge where we sometimes stopped to talk and watch the stars. I paused there, to “tie my shoe.”

Then I told her, “I love you, and I want you for my wife. Jami Michelle Bennett, will you marry me?”

Oddly enough, I had a dream where I was trying to figure out the exact seventeen words I was supposed to say to propose. I don’t know why it had to be seventeen. It just did.

We’ve had our ups and downs, our twists and turns, our crashes and our wrecks.

But we continue on, because she meant it when she said, “I do.” 

And so did I.

I often say that I have no regrets, nothing I would go back and change, given the opportunity. It seems silly to me to think, “If I could, I would go back and choose X instead of Y.” We can’t possibly know all the ways that minor detail might change our lives. Maybe it would be good. Maybe it would be bad. Either way, it’s not possible, so why waste time thinking of things we’d like to change when we can be working to change our current situation instead?

But I would go back and change one thing.

I’d say “as” instead of “for” in my proposal. It’s grammatically more accurate.

I still love you, Jami Michelle Williamson, and I am glad to have you as my wife. 

On to the next fourteen years!