Many years ago I assisted Wayne, a young husband, who was being treated badly by his wife. Wayne felt totally committed to his vow to love his wife and so he continued to forgive her for what she said and did and to keep expecting that the marriage could be restored.
The wife divorced him and threw a party the day the divorce was finalised, yet he continued to be determined to love his wife.
At the time, reflecting on what Wayne was going through, I gained a fresh insight into what commitment can be like. It is easy to volunteer for something on the spur of the moment, or to feel good about something when all is rosy. But when things get tough many people drop out.
A friend told me yesterday of his daughter doing a rather challenging Paramedic course. The course is famous for the high level of people who drop out during the first year. That kind of dropping off is often the case, especially in challenging circumstances.
Jesus talked about that, too, in His parable of the Seed in different Soils. The seed that fell in the rocky ground could not find deep root and so the plant shrivelled when the sun was hot. Jesus explained that people without depth will get excited at first, but will fail when they face difficulties.
“Seed among the rocks are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But they have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” Luke 8:13
People who can stick with their word and their commitments in the face of challenges are rare and honourable. This is the way we are meant to be in all aspects of our life.
If you are a shallow, irresponsible person, who can’t be relied on, then there is a lot of work needed in your inner life. You may need God to plough the soil of your heart and dig out the rocks of selfishness, independence, weakness, fear, pride and the like, that keep you from being a fully reliable person.
Wonderfully, God is on your side, even if you are a very weak person. He is able to uphold you and He is willing to carry you through, as you call on Him. God will also take out the stony heart within you and replace it with a tender, soft heart.
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
What I saw happening in Wayne’s life, that was so wonderful, despite how hard it was for him, was that he kept his commitment to his wife fresh. By ‘fresh’ I mean that he didn’t just hold onto his old commitment to her, but re-made that commitment regularly.
Let me explain it this way. A man finds a wife and commits to love her. He says to her, “I love you.” Then he finds out she is a much more difficult person to live with than he thought. So he stops and re-thinks his commitment. He said “I love you”, thinking she was one kind of person, but now he finds out she is different. So he re-calibrates and decides to make a Fresh commitment, and he says to her, “I love you.”
The second “I love you” is not a repeat of the first, even though the words sound the same, because in heart he is making that commitment to a wife who is difficult, instead of to the dream wife he imagined her to be.
Then she lies to him, betrays him, mocks him, humiliates him and scorns him. Again he has to re-think his commitment to loving her, now that he knows how unpleasant she can be. Drawing a deep breath, and making inner resolve to love his wife, despite how horribly she treats him, he says, “I love you”. Again this sounds like a repeat of past words, but internally these are completely fresh words, reflecting a completely fresh commitment to his wife. This time he is saying, “I love you, despite how horribly you treat me.”
The wife then goes and has an affair, hoping to drive away her husband. This hurts the man deeply so he has to once again re-think his commitment to her. He deals with his internal hurt and shame and decides that despite her actions he is still committed to loving her. So, once again, he says, “I love you.” But this time, the words speak of a brand new fresh and even deeper commitment on his part.
The wife might rebuff him and say, “Stop saying the same old thing over and over again.”
But he could reply, “I’m not saying the same thing. Every time I say ‘I love you’ it is a fresh commitment, a freshly deeper declaration of my will to continue to love you despite how severely you oppose me.”
Years ago I wrote that thought as a poem titled ‘A Fresh I Love You’.
But today I want to take that principle, the idea of keeping things ‘fresh’ as we face new depths of challenge and growth, and encourage you to apply it widely in your life.
Do you love your spouse, your children and your extended family? Have they hurt and disappointed you? Can you recognise the challenges that now exist in your relationships and make the choice to love them afresh, loving them and forgiving them and wanting the best for them, despite how they disappoint, hurt and offend you?
How would it be if today you were to refresh all your relationships, recalibrating them, getting back to manufacturer’s settings, applying God’s grace, wiping away all the negatives, because you made a fresh commitment to them?
What about your walk with God?
Have you gone cold on your walk with Him? Have you become offended because God asked hard things of you or didn’t rescue you in some situation where you felt He should?
Have you withheld praise and adoration, and gotten on with the other things of your life? Have you gone cold on prayer and reading God’s Word? Have you given up going to church and connecting with God’s people?
It’s time to make things ‘Fresh’ again. It’s time to dig deep and realise that you can remain faithful and recommit to your past commitments, and find grace to overcome those disappointments, hurts and frustrations. You can put aside your selfishness and love and bless people, and love and serve God, with all the joy and excitement you’ve ever known, by making fresh commitment from deep within.
So, my friends, today and every day from now on, I call on you to Keep it Fresh!