Summary: Part 2 in series Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God From Our Closest Relationships On Earth. This message on Commitment shows that if Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships, Commitment is the life breath of them.
Part 2 in series
Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth
Wildwind Community Church
February 14, 2009
We’re in our series on relationships right now, and last week we talked about trust, because all relationships are built on trust. Today I want to talk to you about commitment because if you want any relationship to last, you must commit to it as if that is your intention.
It is human nature to be risk-averse. We are cost-counters. Actuaries are people who calculate risk for the insurance agencies. But in our personal lives, nearly all of us are actuaries. We are constantly running cost-benefit analyses in our heads. Do I do this? What will it cost me? What will I get? What will be the rewards and/or consequences? Should I do that instead? A certain amount of this is normal. We have a word for people without the ability to do this. That word is reckless. Normal, healthy people will take risks to some degree, but they are usually calculated risks. Dysfunctional people either will not take risks at all (which leaves them closed off and rigid), or else they take foolish risks without counting costs and benefits.
We live in a society that attempts to manage risk and minimize it wherever possible. The banks are doing this with a thing called FICO scores (credit ratings), which help them decide whether you’ll be good for a loan. Hyundai now is offering to allow you to return a car you buy from them if you lose your job and can’t make the payments. Most stores have liberal return and exchange policies. Offers you see on TV usually come with money-back guarantees. The extended warranty business is huge, with stores making way more money in the risk management business than they make from whatever product they sell. If you are unemployed, the federal government will send you checks for a while. You willingly (in most cases) pay into the unemployment fund because you know it’s an important part of managing risk. Before you have contractors come to work on your house, what do you do? You get estimates! Why? Because you are putting a lot of dollars on the line – taking a risk. Getting estimates is a form of risk management.
In our society we have even come up with a way of managing risk when it comes to relationships. Of course dating is one form of managing risk, right? You don’t want to just marry the first person who comes up and asks you out (usually). But our society has another way of managing risk. We call it cohabitation. Now if you are currently cohabitating with someone, or have done so in the past, please know my intention is not to embarrass you in any way, but I ask you to please hear me out here. And know that you are not alone. Many in this congregation have cohabited before. And that is my point. This is another way we have come up with in our society to manage risk. We figure, “We’ve dated for a while. The next step is to move in together before we make that huge commitment of marriage.” In a society that is obsessed with risk management, this seems logical. The same society that gave birth to the idea of prenuptial agreements would see the risk-management logic of living together – giving it a “trial run.” Why not? After all, this is a serious commitment here.
Well, the why not is because if you want something to last, you must commit to it as if that is your intention. That’s true whether you are buying a car or a house, getting into a friendship, or wanting to spend your life with someone. If you want something to last, you must commit to it as if that is your intention. As it turns out, the research on living together shows that couples who live together before marriage have not a lower but a higher divorce rate. Why is this? Because in not marrying, cohabitating couples are often not committing to the relationship like it is their intention to see it last. There’s something in commitment itself which produces staying power. I don’t have time to give cohabitation the nuanced treatment it deserves tonight, and there are always exceptions to things, but higher divorce rates among those who cohabitate – as a general rule – show that when we go into a relationship with less than full commitment, we make it more likely that the relationship will not last.
This is the problem. If living together tends to backfire, what is a better way of making a huge decision like who we’ll marry? It seems like in relationships, there are no ways of knowing for sure what will happen. We can’t manage all the risk out. There are no guarantees.