It took me 15 years of marriage to realize that my wife has a hope tank. One day, it just hit me that she enjoyed looking forward to our planned vacations as much as actually going on them. I noticed that every time I made a promise to my wife, it somehow added joy to her; it energized her -- except, of course, if I failed to keep it. It didn't have to be a big promise; even simply planning to have breakfast together later in the week would create some excitement and expectation for her earlier in the week as she looked forward to it.
I have now come to believe that every person in the world has a hope tank. You do and so do I. In other words, we all like having something to look forward to in life. Loving someone involves paying close attention to their "hope tank," checking frequently to see if it is full or running closer to empty.
God knows that we have hope tanks. He know this about us better than anyone. That's why he gave us a Book full of promises, packed with vivid descriptions of what we have to look forward to as Christians. Promises like:
- "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
- "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD , "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
- "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3).
Promises are powerful. A promise made creates hope. A promise kept creates trust. And trust is the stuff of which great friendships are made. Lewis Smedes describes them this way:
"What a marvelous thing a promise is! When a person makes a promise, she reaches out into an unpredictable future and makes one thing predictable: she will be there even when being there costs her more than she wants to pay. When a person makes a promise, he stretches himself out into circumstances that no one can control and controls at least one thing: he will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be. With one simple word of promise, a person creates an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty."
One of the most powerful portrayals of promise-keeping I have recently seen is in Steven Spielberg's film, "Lincoln." It is amazing to look at the lengths to which the former president went in order to abolish slavery. He risked his political and personal reputation and, as we now know, his very life, in order to prove true on a promise and a conviction. As a result, the world would change. Slaves would be freed, if not immediately, eventually. For Lincoln, this came at a great price. Although some would argue with the political tactics utilized by Lincoln and his associates to secure the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, others would say that he gave deference to a "higher law." Nonetheless, at the very least, we must acknowledge that he exhibited a value of perseverance when it came to his promises:
"We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot." -- Abraham Lincoln
Our friendship with God is renewed and refreshed by reading and remembering the promises he has given us in the Bible. Our friendships with others, also, are renewed and refreshed by remembering the fun times we have shared together and by looking forward to the next one. Promises lift spirits and energize hearts and minds. They build a bond between parents and their children (fewer things are more disheartening to a child than unkept promises).
Promises are the stuff of hope. Promises made and kept make life full, marriage strong, a faith community close and families unshakeable.
When's the last time you made a promise to someone you love? Have you persevered to the point of keeping it? Are you building hope or disappointment?
How full is your spouse's "hope tank" today?