Dec 12 2012
My sister Susie came to visit for a few days, and we had great fun talking together and driving around to various stores and places that I wanted to show her. Something happened while she was here that I thought was a bit amusing, and it was only later that I started thinking about some of the implications of what I had witnessed.
We had gone to a home furnishings store that I really like. They have lots of unusual goods and their prices are excellent. Even though it was in the middle of a weekday, lots of other people seemed to have the idea that going to that particular store that day would be a terrific idea. That’s the problem with shopping in December when people have vacation time to burn.
So the store was more crowded than usual, and it was somewhat of a challenge to navigate the narrow aisles with my viper blue scooter.
As I was going from one aisle to another, I kept getting closer to a young child who was decidedly not happy. He wasn’t so much talking as just whining and generally being obnoxious – the kind of thing that children do when they are bored, tired, and just ready to go home. I finally saw the child who was causing all the commotion. His mother was pushing a cart, and he and his brother were riding inside.
I went down the aisle next to them, so that they couldn’t see me, but I could hear every word that was said. Now I wasn’t doing this on purpose, but was just browsing through the merchandise in aisle next to them. At this point the young troublemaker said something that reminded me of myself at his age. He said “Mom, if you buy me this, I promise I’ll be good.”
Now I began to see the hidden agenda of this little demon. Perhaps he was not just bored, but was using a well-worn strategy to blackmail Mom into getting him an object of interest. “I know I have been acting like a little brat, and making your shopping experience miserable. But all of that can go away for just a few dollars and this item that has momentarily caught my attention.”
Fortunately, Mom was either wise to the game, or in no mood to be played. She walked right by the item of interest, which resulted in a fresh barrage of whining from the little monster. Fortunately, the trouble only lasted until they got to the next aisle, and her passenger saw other things that he could covet and whine about.
This got me to thinking about promises, and how good we are about keeping them. We’ve all known people who seem to be strangers to the truth. They have no intention of keeping their word, and just seem to make false promises and tell lies for the rush that it gives them. These people may fool us for a time, but we soon learn that nothing that comes out of their mouths has any veracity.
At the other end of the spectrum, we all know people who follow the old adage, “My word is my bond.” Those of us who are old geezers learned in school about President “Honest Abe” Lincoln, who walked miles to return a few pennies when a customer overpaid for an item. We probably all know similar upstanding people in our own lives who will move heaven and earth to keep a promise.
I suspect most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between Honest Abe and the pathological liar. Like the young boy in the store, how many of us make firm promises with full intention of fulfilling them, only to slide back into our old behavior after the heat of the moment as passed? The best example of this is the yearly pledge to eat better and get into shape after the holidays. I suspect that more gym memberships are sold in January than in any other month.
I also thought about the promises we make to God, and then how well we try to keep those promises. Most faiths teach that deity gives us certain rules or commandments, and then blesses us if we are faithful in honoring those rules or covenants (as we Mormons call them). Some faiths also believe that we will be punished if we don’t keep our end of the bargain.
This reminded me of the old joke about a man who was roofing a house, when he found himself slipping and sliding down the roof towards the edge. He offered up a fast prayer where he said “Lord, I have never been much on going to church, but if you save me from this fall, I will be there every week.” Just as he got to the edge, his pants got caught on a nail sticking out of the roof, and his slide towards oblivion stopped suddenly. This prompted a second quick prayer of, “Sorry to have bothered you earlier – never mind!”
I wonder how many times we find ourselves in similar situations. Have we made promises with every intent of keeping them, and then fallen short? Have we made promises that resulted in blessings, but then not kept our part of the agreement? Do we make promises to spouses, friends, parents, or to God, like the boy I saw today? “Let me have this, and I promise I will do better.”
In my experience, blessings usually come after good behavior, and not as a bribe to refrain from bad behavior. This is expressed by the title of a book written by a former Mormon leader: Faith Precedes the Miracle. I have to remind myself of this often, and keep remembering that it is not the other way around. I cannot ask for a miracle with the promise of increased faith. I need to show that faith first and then the miracle will appear.
Note: This was the last blog entry that Kathy wrote before falling ill and being admitted to the hospital with a severe infection. Her ICU doctors have had her on a ventilator and asleep for six days to try and let her body recover. She is the one who needs the miracle now. Please pray that the Lord will return her to us quickly so that we may experience her wit, wisdom and insight again.