What can we say about making commitments? First, we can say that every commitment involves a “yes” and a “no.” Or, as the spiritual writer Evelyn Underhill wrote: “The road to a Yea lies through a Nay.” If I make a commitment to lose twenty pounds, for example, then I have to say “no” to certain foods I might like to eat. On a deeper level, if I make a commitment to marry Steve, then I am saying no to Ralph, Aaron, and Trevor. If our commitment means a great deal to us, (we really, really want to lose weight or we really, really love Steve) then we willingly say “no” to things that are not compatible with that commitment—no matter how good they may be.
Why do we make commitments? We make them primarily to channel our time and energy, and to give shape and purpose to our lives. Options are nice to have, but sooner or later in life we must make choices about the direction we want our life to take. Otherwise we are like the person with a TV remote who surfs hundreds of channels over and over again, but never enjoys a single program! The truth is, we can’t do everything with our life, but we can do something meaningful and worthwhile. Good commitments enable us to do that.
I’m reminded of the story about the great violinist Fritz Kreisler. After a recital, a woman came up to him and said, “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you!” “Madam,” Kreisler replied, “I have given my life to play like this!”
Commitments also protect us from our basic human tendency to run away when things get tough. The medical student sticks with the difficult anatomy class rather than dropping out, because she is committed to becoming a doctor. The newly married couple works through their differences rather than splitting up at the first sign of a significant conflict.
Some say commitments inhibit our freedom. But I like what the great theologian Karl Rahner, SJ, said about this. He said people who refuse to commit themselves to anything are entering into the worst of all commitments: a life without commitment. And deciding to live completely neutral is “deciding nothing, and that in itself is a decision.”
Good commitments are really about freedom—-true freedom. True freedom is not about having a zillion options or doing what I feel like doing all the time. Ultimately, freedom is about becoming the kind of person I really want to be. This means I choose things that are in harmony with who I want to be, and refrain from those that are not. That’s being free.
Is there such a thing as a bad commitment? Of course there is. A terrorist can be committed to blowing up innocent people. So making and keeping a commitment is not an absolute good. We need discernment to make commitments that are good and life-giving and right for us.
The most important commitment we make as Christians is our baptismal commitment, that is, our promise to follow Jesus and to live the Gospel. All other commitments flow from this fundamental one. But our baptismal promises are really a response to another commitment: the one God has already made to us. Throughout scripture, God promises to love us, be with us, watch over us, and help us—forever. Jesus said, “I call you friends” and “I will be with you all days.” Even if we sometimes fail in our commitments, we can always count on God’s commitment of steadfast love and unending forgiveness!
What are some of the major commitments you have made in your life?
What are some smaller commitments you have made in your life that have enriched your life?
Commitments must be nourished. If you have made the commitment to follow Jesus and the Gospel, what are some of the practical ways you keep this commitment alive?
PS: A big thank you for your prayerful support of the retreat I led at Mt. St. Joseph Spirituality Center in Cincinnati this past week. And thank you to all the wonderful retreatants too (over 60 women) and to Sister Marty, SC, director of the center, for her great help and direction!
I chose a song by Matthew West entitled “All In.” I love both the lyrics and the graphics. They remind us of the risks that are involved in making and living out our commitments–and the joy and adventure too!
If you would like to share your thoughts about this reflection, I welcome you to do so below!
Good Morning Sr. Melannie!
I have made a commitment to practicing yoga every day. It has literally changed my body and my heart. In the stillness after yoga, I feel a real sense of calm that extends throughout the my day.
Great reflection! Love the getting to yea through nay expression.
I’ve committed many a year to writing. It has been rewarding: not lucrative, by any means, but rewarding!
I’ve committed to — or perhaps merely fallen into the habit of! — a daily rosary.
I’ve committed to the church into which I was baptized some fifty years ago. I find many appealing things in many spiritual traditions, but the Catholic Church is home.
I think that two necessary elements of following Jesus, or indeed of any spiritual path, are patience and trust. And heaven knows I need to work on those!
Peace and light to everyone. And happy Monday!
Thanks for a great week of retreat! Just when I thought we were finished I got another meditation of yours in Give Us This Day for Sunday! I appreciated the blog theme today and the music video! I also enjoyed your previous blog on wheelbarrows. Enjoy that Chardon cooler weather!
Committment! It works. Most of my adult life i was committed to my family. I was one of those guys that would start something and never really finishing. When i retired, I committed myself to walking the Apalachian Trail. Whoa! I finished it and since am able to say I’ve walked from Key West, Florida to Millinocket, Maine. And now I’ve committed myself to Cursillo, and soon the Secular Order Franciscans. Committment does require effort but the rewards are many. Thanks Melanie.
This August 30th my wife and I celebrate our 38th year of marriage, and I guess it would be an understatement to say the vows we took thirty-eight years ago have been the biggest commitment of our lives! I do not pretend to know the secret to keeping long commitments, as everyone has his or her own story.
But here’s a little something: Whenever my wife and I travel to Cape Cod — either via route three or ninety-five — one of us tries to be the first one to yell “bridge!” once we see either the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge (Tom D. knows what I mean). It’s always funny, often bringing about a fierce debate as to who actually saw and said it first!
The other day I traveled to the Cape solo, but even so, when the bridge came into view I yelled “bridge!”
I so wished she had been there!
Reflecting on commitment has brought many commitments I’ve made without realizing that is what I was doing, to the forefront……of course, in marriage; then to my children, that I would be the best mother I knew how; to my job, that I would give the best of myself and be there when I said I would; to the Grand Rapids Dominican sisters as an associate, to live out the pillars of St. Dominic to the best of my ability; to my grandchildren, to be a loving nurturing grandma…..the list is endless when I pay attention.
My baptismal commitment has become more and more important with each year, as I try to live out my commitment to live out the gospels, particulary right now, the option for the poor and oppressed.
I would like to think I’m All In, but truthfully there are times when I am still on the edge of indecision!
Thank you for this reflection and Happy Monday to all,
51 years ago I made a commitment. My husband and I had two beautiful children, seven grandchildren and we’re on our way with greats, of which we currently have two. Many more to follow, I’m sure. Living life worry free is a commitment in this day and age. But I am truly blessed!
Good morning, Sr. Melanie and all.
It’s interesting to me how discernment and commitment are weaved together in my life.
Thanks for the inspirations and insights.
Peace and grace, always, to all!
In 2010, I made a two year commitment to be trained as a spiritual director. I had to travel twice a month from NY to NJ after a full day of teaching. I wouldn’t get home until 11pm and would wake up 6am the next morning to go to work. (Plus, there were papers, homework, meeting with directees, supervision, and writing logs and verbatims!) Right before I started the program, I came across on old bookmark with the saying: “The will of God will not lead me where the grace of God cannot keep me.” God made the commitment with me!
I’ve made many daily commitments since I retired. It keeps me focused and purposeful. I’m finally able to go to mass 3-4 times a wk! It’s the best! Great topic Sister!
Like John and June, marriage has definitely been the biggest commitment of my life. My husband and I made that commitment 63 years ago and as a blessed result have made a commitment to 8 children, 20 grandchildren, 8+ great grandchildren and a multitude of extras along the way.
I’ve made many smaller commitments including being a Liturgical Musician for several different parishes (and denominations). Each time I change parishes, I make a new commitment.
My husband and I made a commitment 15 years ago to Prison Ministry and to families with incarcerated loved ones.
Almost 50 years ago, I made a commitment to journaling.
About 5 years ago, my husband and I committed to helping the environment by enabling more Monarch Butterflies to propagate.
I believe all of these commitments stem from my commitment to follow Jesus and the Gospel.
It was a pleasure to work with you Melannie. The retreat was beautiful and everyone was very happy having you here with us.
Many blessings as you continue your ministry of sharing the love of our God with everyone.
Many blessings and peace to you this day. Marty, SC
I liked the line THIS TIME FEAR WON’T WIN because I have taken note that every generous resolve is followed by a cautious rebuttal, fueled by fear, which all too often wins out, putting the resolve on hold, forfeiting the grace that was offered with it.
Thank you for this beautiful reflection on commitment
and the song too.