We were given little cards at church today, to fill out with things you are going to do: people you are going to pray for, volunteering you are going to do, folks you are going to invite. Then you bring it up and put it on the altar at the end of the service - there are variations on the theme. Anyone who has been to a denominational church has seen these. Maybe nondenominational too - don't know about that.
I've filled out lots of these over the years. I didn't fill this one out.
As many of you remember, our church of thirteen years lurched and skidded to a close last year, and we are in another congregation. Perfectly nice congregation, in our denomination and where we went before. We went to the "get to know us" classes, and Tracy eventually joined. Rejoined, actually, and the irony is that our son who we brought up in that church is on the board of deacons that decided whether to recommend each candidate for membership. (He recommended his mom, yes. Though we did all have the humorous thought cross our mind...) Other longtime Bible-study friends have been coming as well, and are considering membership.
I did not apply for membership. No definite reason.
Yet another longtime Bible-study friend found the entire discussion of membership appalling: "What, this is like a special club that you get to belong to, and we only let you in if you meet our standards?" The comment was so foreign and baffling to me that I didn't make any answer. I used to see church membership as a privilege, I suppose. With what we have been through, I see it as a burden now. I don't want to make promises I can't keep. Membership may cost you a lot more than you wanted to pay. I hope to get back to the place where I consider it a privilege - and certainly, there was a great deal that other people gave me as well, not the least of which was encouragement.
I thought parenting was a privilege, and I hope to get back to that attitude someday. But you pour in everything that you've got and the dial says "not enough" and you have to go find some more to give somehow. Because you promised. Because you signed on and that's what you do. Even if you aren't that great a parent, or it isn't fair. And when they marry, you never let them see your doubts or let the new one feel unwelcome.
You keep your promises or die - but I haven't. My moral code says "do, or die trying," but there are places where I didn't keep the promises and gave up. Those still haunt me. I don't want to add in any more. So I don't fill out those little forms anymore - they are promises, and I have broken too many.
One might fairly say that the churches don't really expect you are going to make it to 100%, or even that you are going to do well at all - they use this making of commitments as a technique to harden the will and encourage you to do better. And what would happen if we never asked for commitments from anyone?
I have no answer to that. It does make sense. But somehow I don't think that reducing the importance of promises and increasing the sense of having failed by breaking them is the way to go.