We are a people who shy away from making vows. When two people get married, they profess vows before the whole world. In a Catholic marriage, the couple makes a public vow of loyalty that, come what may, they are not going anywhere. So, on the days where we feel like packing it up, we at least have the built-in accountability of what we said on that sunny day in July with eyes full of tears and a heart full of love.
With vows, a relationship takes on a whole new dimension; there is a vulnerability that cannot be found without the promise of steadfastness. There is no immediate threat of abandonment; each person can, and eventually must, let themselves be seen in full light.
If there is no vow, there is less at stake. Anything less than a vow is holding back, and what kind of love is that? Certainly not the kind of rock solid foundation upon which we’d want to build our house.
We married people do this for our spouse. But, would we make vows out of love for Jesus? It would seem that our culture-wide reticence to enter into a committed relationship transfers even to the Christian. When was the last time we made a promise to God? Not a half-hearted resolve to “be better,” but an actual vow – a palpable demonstration of our love and devotion?
The most important part about making a vow is
the love that births it. If we make a vow out of duty, a vow is a
burdensome thing and our freedom is not given the room to spread its
wings. But when we are given the space and peace to fully give of
ourselves to someone in a grandiose proclamation, there is a new
power at work here.
This is the kind of power Jesus speaks of when he tells his disciples that “they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be made well.”
not garden-variety Christianity. When we begin to make tangible vows
to God in every corner of our lives, he responds by increasing our
share in his life and in his freedom.
When we are in love, there is no room for holding out in case there is a better option. There is no room for setting up an emotional camp that is set apart and hiding out there. The heart that loves wants to go deeper and further in the effort to love and be loved. The heart in love with God trudges through mud to find God’s little ones and sometimes makes a mess of things. But, the heart in love with God knows what it is to be seen in all of its misery and despite it all, to be loved furiously. The proper response to someone who gives us everything is to speak the same language back. “My vows to the Lord I will fulfill, in the presence of all his people” (Ps 116:14).