Promises, Promises

By Rick Wattman
April 1993

My two earliest memories of my younger sister Margaret both come from photographs. I don't know if I actually remember the events, but they have been recounted to me so often and I've seen the snapshots enough times, that they are etched into my memory as if they happened last week.

The first image I have is of seeing her through the ground floor window of the hospital when I went with my dad to bring her home. I'm sure I had no idea what it was Mom was holding, but at least I recognized her.

The next is of the time my parents asked me to keep my eye on my little sister for a while. They came to check on me later and found that I had climbed into the crib with her, and sure enough, I had my eye on her-literally. They love to tell that one!

Children today will have an even more difficult time distinguishing "memory from Memorex." Our Elise loves to watch herself on video, and discusses things that "baby Elise" experienced as if they took place yesterday. Yet no matter how much tape I run through the camera, it seems the most precious events happen only once, and the tape is rarely rolling.

One such surprise came out of the blue the other day. Three-year-old Elise and four-month-old Anna take their baths together regularly. Although she is usually very careful around her baby sister, Elise occasionally gets a little too rowdy; this time she deliberately splashed water right into Anna's eyes and made her cry (resulting, I might add, in an immediate time out). Several days later, with no prompting, Elise brought up the incident and apologized to her mom and her sister for splashing water and making Anna sad. What's more, she made a very serious pledge.

"Mom, I won't splash Anna any more. I promise!"

Now where do you suppose she came up with that one? We don't make promises around our house; if you say it, it's as good as done, and there's no reason to doubt it. However, being curious parents, we asked her, "What does a promise mean?"

It was with great difficulty (and some unavoidable snickering) that we tried not to laugh at her simple, ironic, and unabashedly innocent response. She shrugged her shoulders, held up her palms and said in her cutest singsong, "Nothing." What a mouthful.

No less an authority than Jesus said that our word is our bond: "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no" (Matthew 5:37). There is no need to swear on heaven or on earth or on anything else for that matter. The point is, if your word is not worth anything, your promise isn't either. As Kim Bassinger and the rest of Hollywood discovered recently, a verbal contract is worth close to nine million dollars more than the paper it's printed on, regardless of what Samuel Goldwyn had to say.

The inimitable Goldwyn also quipped, "If you can't give me your word of honor, will you give me your promise?" It's no wonder the movie industry is so messed up.

In this age of contract disputes and heated litigation, it should be fairly easy to recognize a follower of Jesus. He or she will be the one whose word is valued, trusted and relied upon; you won't have to capture it on audio or video tape to make it stick. What a difference it would make throughout the business world if the idea caught on.

Whether it does or not, for those who are called as ambassadors of Christ—His representatives to the world—it is not only our honor, but also His that's on the line every time we open our mouths.

It is an awesome responsibility to represent Him before men. And you can quote me on that.

©1992 Rick Wattman