Making a Commitment
The first time Darryl and Cynthia met and got to know each other in an online meeting room, they made a positive connection. After a couple of Facetime chats, things were going well enough that they decided to meet in person on a group hike in the Adirondacks. Then they took the step of doing a traditional date night with a dinner. The conversation was enjoyable and Cynthia found Darryl funny. Then they went to a movie where they held hands. The evening ended with a long kiss and a hug. Cynthia was excited the two of them were getting closer and looked forward to their next meeting. She texted him about an upcoming musical event with a group they both liked. No response. She tried Facebook Messenger, Skype, Facetime, Google, even email. She finally called his cell number. Nothing. Darryl had ghosted her. No explanation. No response. It was as if he had never existed. Cynthia was quite disappointed but not surprised. It had happened before. She had done it to a guy whose nose hairs irritated her. “There are more fish in the sea,” she thought and moved on.
There are lots of Darryls and Cynthias today. There is the appearance of growing commitment until it suddenly evaporates. They disappear, ghosting the other person.
Singles are careful today about making a commitment to a relationship. Many children were traumatized watching their parents fight, get divorced, then engage in protracted custody battles where they were the pawns. They witnessed the suffering a relationship can cause and remember their feelings of being vulnerable and hurt. They don’t want to be in that kind of relationship. Better to run if they see any signs of trouble.
This fear of commitment has wider sources than relationship struggles. It can be stressful to have too many choices and not know which one is the best. Which kind of apple, or lettuce or cheese or bread or toothpaste or soap should I buy? With technology, which hardware and software platforms should I commit to? Apple? Microsoft? Android? Linux? Ubuntu? Once one technology is learned and adjusted to, it is challenging to change to another one. My experience with one video editor made me reluctant to try another. That would require me learn how to use the new one to find out if it would be any better or not. Because of the learning curve, I had gotten locked into a commitment without deciding to make a commitment which disturbed me.
Another factor that interferes with commitment is FOMO, fear of missing out. What if a better relationship partner comes along who is more charming, more affectionate, has better teeth, a healthier physique, more money, nicer clothes, a warmer smile, a better education, wider taste in music, more, better, best?
These are just a few of the barriers to commitment of which there are many more to list. There are so many motivations to shy away from making commitments. What is more useful to contemplate is what are the benefits of making a commitment? There are many, some of which are not obvious.
The decision to make a commitment itself, in a sense, is its own reward. The decision reduces the anxiety that comes with not being sure which one to make. In the best case, certainty comes with the decision and a sense of confidence in the choice. Making a commitment clarifies the mind and gathers energy to move in one direction rather than another. A publicly proclaimed commitment can be attractive and draw like-committed people to be allies. One’s sense of identity is solidified by making commitments and staying with them.
I remember well the decision to go to seminary. I had been offered a test engineering position in Santa Rosa, California to work at Hewlett Packard. It was my dream job I had desired and strived toward since working as an electronic technician for HP six years before. Yet something held me back that I didn’t understand until, in a powerful moment of insight, I recognized ministry was calling me. Now it was time to leave my former life as an engineer behind. That clear as a bell commitment hasn’t had the financial rewards of staying in Silicon Valley but the spiritual rewards have been far greater.
Other commitments I’ve made have grown more slowly like a commitment to eat a diet that increases the health of my digestive system. The healthier my gut has become, the stronger the commitment has grown.
Another kind of commitment is commitment to a community. Commitment to a community has many benefits too. Such a commitment facilitates the development of a sense of trust with others in the community. It helps develop the sense that we are in this together. “I’ve got your back.” “If you’re in trouble, I’ll be there for you.” This spirit develops a strong sense of loyalty to your people in the community and fosters a sense of responsibility to the community and identification with it.
One of the great struggles of being human is being in a body that is separate from other bodies. There is an aloneness that our society amplifies through our development of individualism. Just sitting with other people in Community Hall can foster a little of the feeling of connection. Unfortunately, that often dissipates after walking out the door. A sense of enduring connection starts to develop when we make a commitment to the congregation.
There are many ways to make a commitment to our congregation. Coming regularly on Sunday morning and meeting people after the service is one way. Another is getting involved in one of our many small group experiences. Another important way to deepen commitment is through a generous promise of financial support of the congregation during our stewardship drive in March. Becoming a member is a big step in commitment. It is the commitment that assists in helping the congregation become a place where you feel you belong, and it belongs to you. Through commitment, membership grows a deepening sense of meaning and purpose.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity this congregation has given to me to make an intense commitment to serving its growth and development. I’ve made that commitment into this congregation to be an example of what commitment can do. It is a joy and a privilege to work in partnership with it to help it find its way and bring it new life. As we all deepen our commitment together, so much becomes possible that can transform us and transform those around us.
Commitment is the key that opens the way.