Spiritual Reflections

To Commit: A Challenge

Reading a book, just like writing, is a big commitment. One can’t simply just dive into a 500-page book, then forget about it after flipping through a hundred pages or more. Likewise, multi-tasking (or should I say, multi-reading) several books at the same time (or period) is maddening. I myself am guilty of it.

A few months ago, I resolved to finish C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. I already got started with Perelandra when out of a whim, I started reading George Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice. Now, halfway through the latest book A Dance with Dragons, I got hooked with Rice Broock’s God’s Not Dead (which, by the way, is an awesome book). That recent book prompted me to check C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. As I covered several chapters already, a Christian friend gave me a copy of The God-Hungry Imagination by Sarah Arthur. And I had to struggle holding off Rick Riordan’s House of Hades. For now. Not to mention others books I started reading over the summer: Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and The Dark Half.

If reading books was a romance, I would definitely be labeled as a flirt, a playboy or a womanizer. And everyone (almost) hates that kind of person. 

We detest stories of marital infidelity, unfaithful partners and friends, disloyalty among peers and organizations, and broken promises and relationships even inside the family. Yet ironically, a lot of us have our own hard time keeping our commitments. It can be about finishing a deadline. Or doing chores, like washing the dishes. Or something personal yet grand like upholding an ideal or moral principle.

Why should we commit to something anyway? Would it not be better if I just do something when I feel like it? That way, nobody’s going to get hurt with unmet or false expectations. We can all live our merry lives without pressure, worry, or restrictions. After all, as our world seem to teach us nowadays — “promises, like laws, are meant to be broken.” But should it be so?

Commitment sounds like a big word. But it’s not. It is an enormous, depth-rich word. ‘Commit’ came from a Latin word committere ‘to connect; entrust’, and from com- +mittere ‘to send’. [Source: Merriam Webster] Commitment is about opening up yourself to someone else, making yourself vulnerable to them and in doing so — putting your trust in them. Like when we send emails, SMS or even the occasional snail mail (or written notes inside the classroom), we do so with trust — trust that intended recipient will receive it, trust that others would respect its privacy, and trust that your message will be understood. It’s almost impossible to make a commitment without trust.

In Japanese, the word for commitment is kouyaku 公約‘Kou’ (公) means ‘public’, and ‘yaku’ (約) means ‘promise’. Does that mean we can’t have a private commitment? A lot of people talk about ‘personal commitments’ — as if it’s a promise only to their selves. And rightly so. Yet we forget that each decision leads to action — and each of our action inevitably touches other people and makes an impact. Whether we choose to linger or avoid someone creates a ripple to the ocean of people surrounding you. And our commitments are simply a daily embodiment of our moment-by-moment decisions in our socially-interactive life.

Amusingly, it also sounds like “kuya ko” (Tagalog for “my brother”). And I realize that being a brother to someone is more than just blood or responsibility. It is a commitment. It is a promise. It’s an attitude. Being a brother doesn’t end when your little siblings have found new friends and you’re forgetten, neglected or ignored. Being a brother doesn’t stop when they prefer other’s company over yours, or when you’re just appreciated for the free food, free stuff. Being a brother doesn’t stop when you’re just remembered when they need advice, a favor, or a chubby shoulder to cry on (and leave as soon as they feel okay again).

Being a brother, I realized, is just being there always — even when they don’t need or want you. Being a brother is the commitment I made, not to the little siblings God sends my way, but to Him who also blessed me with bigger brothers. They were there for me when I needed them most, and asked nothing back in return. My commitment in being a brother isn’t towards the people. It’s a path I chose because God entrusted me with them. I know His own commitment towards me as my Father who guides is more faithful and true, so I find myself without an excuse.

The Bible itself is a lengthy, evidential narrative of God’s own commitments to mankind. From the promised Savior in the Garden of Eden, to the numerous covenant God made through each and every generation of Israel, to the divine reiterations of His holy oath through the prophets, to God’s human incarnation through Jesus Christ and His subsequent sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, and until the revelatory statements of His future kingdom and rule — He has kept, is keeping and is continually renewing His grace-filled unmerited commitments to us.

So what happens when we fail a commitment?

Everyone would probably say, “Sure, forgive him/her — but they don’t deserve your trust again.” And for a good reason. From a pragmatic point of view, only a stupid person would allow himself/herself to be subjected to repeated abuse. Yet the same goes with us: we all fail at our own countless commitments. And if we agree to the practical solution — we might end up with a world full of distrust. And distrust pushes people away from one another.

We need commitments. As humans, we are meant to connect and be a graceful society, collectively moving towards progress. And to achieve such success, we need to realize our need to trust one another — and in doing so, to commit to one another. We all know that we can fail other’s expectations — that’s why we need Someone we can truly rely and depend on when things go wrong: our committed Creator. But we need to also commit to His Word, to His rules — not to hinder our pursuit of pleasure, but to be guided into what we were meant to sincerely enjoy — together and forever!

I challenge you today: let go of your old, faulty commitments. Remember your pure, youthful promises. Take up your renewed passion onstage, and publicly say to the world’s untrusting face: “I do!”

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