When I was growing up, one of the things I appreciated about my dad was that he kept his word. My siblings and I could depend on him to be an event that he said he would be at, or to fulfill a promise he committed to. He was the kind of dad who assured us that if we needed him, he would be there. If we called him, for instance, even if he was in a meeting, he would take our call.
Recently, I experienced this again. When I phoned him, I didn’t realize he was in conferencing with the Vice President of the Philippines and other government officials. However, he picked up my call anyway. There was a lot of chatter in the background, so he called me back immediately when he was in a quieter place so he could hear what I was saying.
During the course of our conversation, I found out he had been in a very important meeting. Still, he didn’t seem like he was in a rush to get me off the phone. I was the one who said, “It’s okay. I can talk to you later. Please go back to your meeting.”
Afterwards, I messaged him something like, “Wow, Dad. You took my call. Thank you. I felt special.”
It meant a lot to me that I could still trust him to be there, that he still answered the phone like he told my siblings and I he would when we were kids.
However, the most significant promise I have seen my dad keep is to love my mom and stay faithful to her. After forty-five years of marriage, he hasn’t left my mom. It hasn’t been a perfect marriage, but my parents have kept their vows, as unto the Lord.
My dad’s example of dependability and staying true to his word helped me to believe that God is also a God who is available and reliable.
As parents, my husband, Edric, and I are aware that our kids are also looking to us to understand who God is. We can talk about His ways and His truths. Yet, one of the best ways to demonstrate to them that God is a promise keeper is to keep our promises, too. We need to mean it when we give our “yes”, even in the small things.
A few nights ago, Catalina really wanted to buy a gumball from the gumball machine. Neither Edric or myself had a five peso coin to give her. However, Edric told her that he would get her one. About an hour later, when I thought our five-year old might have forgotten about the gum, Edric got a hold of a five peso coin. He went out of his way to bring her back to the gumball machine and she excitedly put in the coin and turned the knob. When her orange gumball came out, she was delighted.
Edric asked her, “Does Daddy keep his promise?”
She jumped and said, “Yes!” Then she added, “Mendozas always keep their promises.”
We want promise-keeping to be a family value so we actually have a printed sign on our wall that states that we must keep our word. When Edric and I fail to do so, we allow our kids to correct us. (And they do!) Similarly, when our kids are struggling with following through with their own commitments, we remind them that they have to.
As a family, we are all still growing in this area of keeping our word. Some of our kids are young. They are still learning what this means. However, the older kids understand that a promise is a promise.
Recently, Elijah took on a project for a high school camp that entailed a whole lot of work. He accepted the responsibility of setting up the website and doing registration. It was stressful and burdensome. Many hours and days were poured into finishing what he started. There were moments when he was very discouraged, and I wanted to rescue him. In fact, I pitied him. Honestly, I felt like he committed to tasks without fully realizing how much effort they would entail. However, he kept going. I also reminded him, “Elijah, since you committed to do this, you have to find a way to get it done.”
He already knew this, which is why I was proud of him. He made sure that he completed what he promised to. In the end, God multiplied his effort and supplied where he lacked in terms of experience and capacity.
I don’t think we grasp how serious it is when we do things like flake out on people by not showing up to an event we said we would, by being habitually late, forgetting to pay back a debt we owe or intentionally leaving a debt unpaid, failing to follow through with our responsibilities at home, work or ministry, or even telling people we will pray for them when we don’t end up praying for them at all.
Whenever we say we WILL do something and don’t, it’s lying. It’s breaking faith. It means we don’t have integrity.
Yes, it’s true that some promises carry more weight than others. For example, I know many people who have been wounded by their parents’ unfaithfulness to one another and to them. Since a child’s concept of faithfulness is first shaped at home, it’s difficult for them to trust others. It’s also difficult for them to believe that God is a faithful God. Although God heals and He redeems mistakes of the past, it’s a challenge for these persons to overcome the hurt of betrayal. Some of them don’t even want to get married and have families because of the trauma they experienced.
Before we judge those who don’t honor their marital vows or make big promises to their children that they don’t keep, let’s be mindful that we can also end up breaking our most important vows in the future when we make it a habit to compromise in the small things today. It’s the small compromises, built up over time, that set us up and make us calloused toward breaking our bigger oaths.
There are two lessons here. First, let’s be careful with the statements we make. In fact, Edric jokingly likes to say, “under-promise, over-deliver.” Don’t make a promise, a statement, an oath that we cannot keep or don’t intend to keep. Second, if we have given our word, then we must fulfill it, even if it’s costly for us to do so.
“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” (James 5:12)