Friday, October 15, 2010

Life Covenants

I clearly remember my wedding day. I remember receiving the last order of wholesale flowers that morning, and putting the bouquets together with my bridesmaids. I remember my dress draped from the upstairs banister down to the foyer. I remember all the girls sitting in my bedroom at my parents' house getting their hair and make-up done. And I remember asking my bridesmaids to unbutton the endless line of buttons down the back of my dress minutes before the start of the ceremony because I couldn't breathe. My mom seeing me in my dress and crying, my dad proudly offering his arm for the walk down the aisle. Nervousness, chest heaving, so many eyes looking on, spotting my fiance. My dad's speech, taking Matt's hand, and carefully walking up the steps at the front of the church. Seeing my sister and sister-in-law, in their beautiful black dresses, pearls softly sweeping across their necks, cheeks red and eyes full of tears. I remember that in the midst of my brother's emotional state, the paper wax-stop around his candle caught on fire and had to be stomped out by the rest of the groomsmen, right there in the middle of the ceremony. I remember some inappropriate comments and impromptu vows, because Matt decided in the rush of the moment that the vows we had written together just weren't witty enough for him. And I remember making those promises, looking right into his eyes, meaning them the best I could as a 22-year-old right out of college, who had known little pain, little struggle, and little want in life.

I don't remember understanding the weight of the covenant. I don't remember even knowing I was entering into a covenant. Now, more than five years later, having experienced pain, struggle, and want... I know what I meant when I said those vows that day.

A covenant is simply a promise, or as Wikipedia says: "a solemn promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action." Have you ever thought about marriage as a covenant? What about childbirth, adoption, or fostering? What about ministry? What about death? All of these things are covenants that life offers us. Some we can choose whether or not to partake in, others not so much. Death is a promise that we are required to experience whether we want to or not. But we have the choice (most of the time) whether or not we will have children.

I had no idea the promise I was making the day my son was born. I never would have imagined I was entering into a covenant the first time I saw his sweet little slime-covered face. But I was. The day you bring a child into the world (or welcome an adopted or foster child into your family), you are making a solemn promise to that child. What if we had to make vows on that day? They would go something like, "I promise to be your mother. I will love you unconditionally. I will provide for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs until you are old enough to provide for yourself. I will train you in the ways of the world and the ways of God. I will accept responsibility for you." And so on. It is the unspoken covenant of motherhood.

Matt and I were visiting recently with some friends who don't have kids, and aren't sure if they want to have kids. Maddox was there, too, acting like a normal one-and-a-half-year-old; giving hugs and testing boundaries. Upon leaving that afternoon, I could only imagine our friends plopping down on the sofa, sharing an empathetic glance, and deciding they should wait a while longer before having kids.

It is so easy for a person without children to look into the lives of a family of 3 (or 4 or 11) and see all the negatives about being parents. We are exhausted, chasing our son around the house, swatting here, spanking there, holding back tears of frustration. I don't have to explain to my kid-less friends the difficulties of living with a toddler. They are pretty clear. But there is no way I could explain to my kid-less friends the benefits of being a mother. The rewards are not tangible. The positives are not visible. They are deeply understood, only by the woman who has entered into the covenant of motherhood, and only to be known after the covenant is made.

It wasn't until talking with Matt after visiting our friends that afternoon, that I realized how important life covenants really are to our human development. When I enter into a life covenant, something is required of me. I am expected to give something. When I entered into the covenant of salvation, I was expected to give my life to the Lord. When I entered into the covenant of marriage, I was expected to give my life to my husband (and he to me). When I entered into the covenant of motherhood, I was expected to give my life to my children. And when I enter into the covenant of death, I will be expected to give my life to Judgement. Every covenant we enter breaks us a little more, because we are expected to give of ourselves. Nothing so quickly pounds out our selfishness and pulls out our selflessness as a new life covenant.

Covenants have broken me. They have caused me to realize that me, myself and I are not the most important people in this world. My needs don't have to be met first. My way does not have to be realized. My opinion doesn't always have to be heard. My plans, dreams and ambitions don't always have to see fruition. It is a grave act of self-denial to enter into a covenant in life. I think that's why so many people are scared to do it. I know I was.

When we stand in front of a life covenant, towering over us and look up into it's glaring eyes, it is so easy to see the risk. "What if I can't follow through? What if it hurts? What if the promise isn't there waiting for me? What if the other party doesn't commit? What if there's hardship? What if it doesn't go as planned? What if I fail?" It is much more difficult to see the pay-off. In so many life covenants, we won't clearly understand all the good parts until we enter in. In Genesis 17 we can read about one covenant God made with Abraham:

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." Than Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations." Genesis 17:1-4

It wasn't until after Abram entered into the covenant by showing his total submission to God that God allowed him to know the full promise of the covenant. We also read in 1 Corinthians:

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Life covenants are worth entering into, even if we can't see the value clearly from the outside. I have never known such reward in my life as the covenant of motherhood has given me. And I know that when the covenant of my salvation is fully realized, I will be so overwhelmingly blessed, I will wonder how I ever considered holding onto myself and not committing.

Life covenants force us out of ourselves and into new understanding. They bring new perspective and new positions for empathy. They require everything from us, and promise to return more. Have you allowed these covenants to give you their gifts, as is their intention? I used to be afraid, but now I have experienced many fulfilled covenant promises. They are worth their risk. I want to encourage you, in the right time, to enter into your life covenants with gusto.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...