Vol 3, Num 5 :: 2004.02.27 — 2004.03.11
After hours of trying to contact him with health department instructions about rubber gloves and hairnets, Rick finally called me: “I can’t participate in the bake-off. I’ve been at play rehearsals until 11:30 every night this week. The actor with the second largest part dropped out on Monday. I’m sorry.”
Having participated in theatre productions in college, I had some idea of the stress caused by an actor who dropped out a week before the show opened. I couldn’t force Rick to keep his commitment, even though I was apprehensively watching the list of contestants continue to dwindle on the eve of the big bake-off.
In the few moments I had to be introspective between making seven dozen truffles and packing ten boxes of supplies for the event, the domino effect of broken commitments struck me. While the actor’s reasons for quitting were in all likelihood legitimate, he couldn’t have any idea how his actions precipitated a whole series of broken commitments—though perhaps it was a broken commitment that caused him to abandon the show when the cast was already in dress rehearsals.
Broken commitments typically tick me off. Rob, too. I can’t count the number of times we’ve moaned, “Why can’t people just do what they say they’re going to do?” However, when I’m honest, I realize that I’m worse than most at keeping commitments, though not usually when those commitments affect other people’s plans. Rather, I break commitments most often when I’ve made a promise to myself. How many times have I committed to exercising regularly, being a better listener, or shopping at the local store instead of the chain?
The most destructive commitments I break regularly are those promises to practice various spiritual disciplines: morning and evening prayer, meditation, study of the Word, appropriate fasting and feasting, living into a prayerfully defined calling. More and more frequently, I’m overwhelmed with the impression that my life is out of control, and though I know the reasons, I don’t know where to start making a change. I’m in survival mode, literally running from one external commitment to the next, far outside of the state of constant prayer I desperately desire. The result is that my commitments lose relevance to my deepest values and become no more than items to check off on an ever-lengthening to-do list.
In looking beyond this time to graduate school possibilities for the ubiquitous “five-year plan,” I came across one school seeking to help students “prepare for the overflow of ministry that results from a grateful heart.” That’s what I desire: the joy of knowing that my daily activities both emerge from and feed into a desire to serve the one true God. I’m not without hope that the fulfillment of that desire is within the five-year plan, as I seek, in community with the Holy Spirit and with other believers, to keep my commitment to being a true disciple of Christ.
I know I’ll never fully arrive: that’s part of the longing that lets us hold this earthly life with a not-too-firm love. But I desire to be a lot closer than I am now. And that will only happen when I find the strength to be complete in my brokenness, allowing the living Spirit to guide me into a disciplined life and the community of believers around me to hold me accountable to that journey.