"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Commitment—To Grow or To the Status Quo?

By Micky Wolf

Commitment may mean different things to different people.  For whatever manner we choose to speak of it, to make a commitment, or be committed, is to make an agreement or pledge to self, another person or an organization. To call something a commitment is to make known one’s intention and then, hopefully, follow through to completion. Most of us need only a quick glance at our calendar to note a variety of short and longer term commitments.
If commitments are a typical part of everyday life, why would it be important to consider the nature of them? And if we have a clearer understanding of the kinds of commitments we make—often routinely and without a lot of thought or consideration—how might such insight impact the substance of our life or our relationships?
At the root of each and every choice we make is a “why”—the thought, idea, or feeling that gets us moving—or not. Taking some time to review those things we would describe as our commitments in light of the ‘why’ is an excellent way to gain insight about how we use and spend our time. We tend to resist this kind of self-examination.  Why? (Okay, pun intended.) We may discover an unsettling truth: some or most of what we have committed to is more about maintaining the status quo than opening self to personal growth, whether in body, mind, emotions, or spirit.
Committing to the status quo…
If two words best describe this choice they are safety and security. The need to think and feel we are safe and secure is a big issue for most of us. No rocking the boat, thank you. What happens in the world out there will likely do enough of that so the least I can do is keep things as they are, so goes our thinking. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with this kind of approach to life and living.
Safety and security are relative. If I’m at home in my driveway and my car fails to start, I  probably feel safer than if my vehicle grinds to a halt with a flat tire while hoping to quickly pass through an area well-known for rampant criminal behavior.
Trying to maintain the status quo involves a lot of energy and time in support of the mostly false notion to do so will somehow shield me from life’s little or larger moments of unexpected difficulties or challenges. This idea of commitment is naïve at best and foolish at worst. It is wise to think and act responsibly when it comes to spouse, family, job, and so forth, but even with that, we can only take responsibility for our choices and not those of others, including the ones nearest and dearest to us.
Consistency and predictability promote passivity. Adhering to the same kinds of commitments, day in and day out, is certainly not a bad thing when they are considered in the light of healthy habits or loving actions. Regularly scheduled time for exercise is certainly a good choice, as is a daily or weekly set time for meditation or worship.
The problem with filling our calendars with too many consistently predictable commitments is the potential to slip into “doing” with little thought, reflection, or emotional engagement. Marriages or other kinds of longer term relationships can be at particular risk for staleness and boredom if too much time is given to “same ole same ole”, as the saying goes. What is too much predictability? Taking some time reflect upon your present commitments may prove most enlightening.
Committing to grow…
If one word best describes this choice it is risk. Any kind of growth means change. Entering the unknown. Passing through the unplanned. And lest we forget, pain of some sort or another is part of the mix. Committing to personal growth of any kind means allowing ourselves to be stretched and tested. We will have to step away from business as usual. And yet, if we say “yes”, especially if we choose to believe the one beckoning us to take a risk is our good God, the adventure of a lifetime a waits—and it begins with your very next breath. Okay, so I’m ready, Lord, what next?
Begin to believe taking a risk is more about heart-attitude than personal calamity. The truth is, most of us likely took lots of risks as kids or young adults, and may have paid dearly (make that painfully) as a result. All the more reason we need to take more risks than less as we get older. Why?
Redefine your definition of risk. Let’s face it—there is a vast difference between attempting to jump off the side of a mountain strapped to a colorful ribbon of nylon at the age of 25, and taking a moonlight stroll on an unexplored trail of the nearby park at the age of 55. And yet, how many times have we declined the hike because “it’s too dark…it might rain...we might run into a wild animal…or a weird person?” Our list of excuses is as long as we choose it to be.
Both the mountain and the trail are about taking a risk. So, in considering the trail at this point in your life, would you rather invite a companion along, take a good flashlight if necessary, and strap on your walking shoes—or play it safe and miss the moment to encounter God in the shimmers of moonlight silver of the pond? Or in the gentle, light touch of a kiss on the cheek as you and your beloved pause to take in the splendor of the brilliant thousands of sparkling stars?
Growing is more than a spectator sport. Here is the reality—each and every one of us is “growing older” by the moment. Believe you can stop it? Hardly. We might try using special skin products, resort to certain medical procedures, radically change our diets or lifestyles, but at best, we can only prolong the process.
Why not be an active participant in the life you have been given? Because aging is inevitable does not mean we cannot continue to grow and blossom more fully into the unique person God has created us to be. Learn a new skill, whistle while you walk, plant a flower, or dig holes and play in the dirt with a small child. It is true eternity is forever—it is also true this moment is the only one for which you are assured. This. One. Moment.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act. (Psalm 37:5)

Commit and trust—our choice to pledge
He will act—His loving response
As our life’s journey unfolds, it does not take long to realize we are making agreements and pledges to a whole lot of things and a whole lot of people—for a whole lot of reasons and seemingly good explanations. But if we will but take a little time, from to time, to assess our choices, to allow the Lord to examine our hearts, we will begin to recognize the value of meaningful commitment. We will be invited to consider our why—am I choosing to keep the status quo, or to risk and grow?
Am I more comfortable with the status quo than growing? Why?
Are some commitments easier to make than others? Why?
How do feel when I sense the Lord inviting me to take a risk?
What is one choice I can make today to take a risk to grow?

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