The Danger of Vows

5 08 2015

What kid could resist Jesus? His pictures always showed Him kind and loving; so gentle and welcoming – especially if the male faces around them are angry and mean most of the time; their actions rough and unkind.

The Sunday School class I attended as a child used big songbooks with beautiful pictures. My two favorites were “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art.” I fell in love with Jesus because of those two books!

As a child, though, we moved countless times to several towns and three states. Church wasn’t a high priority, and we attended only on Christmas and Easter most years.

The ‘face’ of Jesus that I’d come to love when I was little began to be replaced with the one I saw every day, everywhere we moved…because he moved with us. Back then families didn’t split up. You went to a new location where ‘things were going to be better.’ When you’re taking the ‘problem’ with you, that just doesn’t happen.

Like kids do, I assumed that God was like my ‘dad.’ Distrust of His love for me took root.

After all, if He was supposedly in charge, why wasn’t He doing something about the way we were treated by this man? And, without spiritual leadership – people who could explain free will and the other factors involved, I was left to figure out how it all worked on my own.

Few eight-year-olds are equipped to do this well.

By the time I was ten, I’d decided that the God-Who-Was-In-Charge either didn’t care about me, or was too weak to help. If life was going to get better, then I needed to take over.

Vows made in times of distress are dangerous.

“When I grow up, I will live in one place.”

“When I have a family, my kids will have a happy childhood with loving parents.”

“I will never let a man treat me the way my step-dad treats my mom.”

These little seeds are planted, but lay dormant for many years.

It isn’t until we become adults that these vows begin to interfere with life.

If we closely examine our vows, we discover that many factors were beyond our control.

For instance, where we will live is not dependent solely upon us. Unless we were able to purchase a house right out of high school, moves would happen. Apartments, more apartments, rent this house and that, until we bought a home and settled down.

When it came to parenting, I was only one voice of many in my kids’ lives. Since five out of seven were boys, I had less of a voice than any male. The simple truth is that it takes a man to raise a man. While this is not a popular belief, it is true nonetheless.

I had no control over how my kids’ dads would treat them…whether he would be loving or bring happiness to our home.

As for men…well, I can’t control how they choose to treat me. I can only control my response.

Here is where the vow becomes a problem:

I’d set boundaries around what my life would look like. Because none of them were dependent solely upon me, they were unsustainable.

Take my first vow: I will live in one place.

Hubby says, “I want to move to (this town, or that house).”

That’s a problem. I swore I would never move when I grew up. Now I have to decide which vow will be broken – the one about not moving, or the one about my kids having a happy family.

If I refuse to move, but dad has a job in another town and must go, then that means a split in our family – and there goes the loving home.

{Keep in mind, this is not a stable, healthy family to begin with. In a godly family, one where Christ is central, this would all work out. I get that.}

Or:

Hubby is abusive (no man will treat me…). If I take the kids out of this mess, I now bump up against the other two vows: I will not move, my kids will have loving parents – plural. What to do?

The bottom line is this: the vows I made boxed me in. No matter which decision I made to maintain one, others would be broken.

Before you judge me as an idiot, you need to know that I didn’t consciously remember the vows I made. My line of reasoning didn’t look like what you just read. At the time, I had great confusion as to the ‘right’ thing to do. I could see no way out of the messes I got myself into. I did the best I could, without ever understanding the underlying issues…my vows.

Consequently, I’ve made decisions that made no sense to anyone – including myself. As a result, I saw myself as a huge failure, and thus deserving of whatever kind of treatment I received from the world at large, and from the family members whom I’d failed.

But God loves me and wants me free. Over the course of the last year, He’s revealed countless vows that I made when I was young so I could dismiss them. Bit by bit, I’ve relinquished control to Him – the only One who can work all things for my good.

I’ve had to forgive myself for making the vows, and let myself off the hook for how things panned out. I take responsibility for those areas which were truly dependent upon me, and leave the rest on the table.

There is a lightness to my heart these days. Much of what I presumed to be my failure turned out to belong to someone else. They can have it!

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

*****

Next time we’ll discuss agreements – the ugly twin to vows.

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11 responses

11 08 2015
isaiah41v10

I made vows from watching my parents’ marriage – “I am never going to be like my mother. ” I saw her as weak and dependent, hence I put barriers up between myself and my husband and resented serving him. Not healthy. 😦 God has been working on this area in my life and changing my heart.
Thank you for this post.

11 08 2015
lessonsbyheart

Yay God! He is ever faithful to lead us into greater aliveness, isn’t He?
\o/

7 08 2015
nopew

I have never thought of these as “vows”, just “the home I grew up in”. But your perspective cannot be discounted. The effect of those evaluations of life become static and firm, so have the effect of what adults call vows. Thanks. It is as we encounter another viewpoint that our own awareness deepens.
Peace

7 08 2015
lessonsbyheart

My understanding of the effect of vows and agreements jelled only when I finished these two articles. Although this last year has been one of discovering and then breaking them off, I didn’t really see the severity of their effect. I’ll certainly be a little more cautious about making them in the future.

Been enjoying your articles, although haven’t had time to comment. 🙂

\o/

8 08 2015
nopew

When God is at work we keep opening more and more to God’s world. And thanks for reading. The problem of time I relate to very much 🙂 !
Peace

5 08 2015
Teresa

Thank you for sharing. It does sounds like a wilderness experience and even so, our gracious Lord never leaves or forsakes us. He’s with us every step of the way. I am forever grateful!

5 08 2015
lessonsbyheart

Wilderness, indeed. His presence has been unmistakable, though. It took many months for me to see clearly enough to recognize His fingerprints everywhere, though.

Thanks for reading and for your comment. 🙂

\o/

5 08 2015
vonhonnauldt

Yes, life turns out differently than we expect. Your life in some ways parallels mine in lots of moves, a dysfunctional family, though, thank God, there was no abusive male, and I was an only child. There was no male at all and Mom was too busy making a living to have much time for me. Especially in my teen years, I pretty much raised myself. Did a poor job of it, too. Although, in her defense, what kid knows their parents? She did the best she could.
I’m thankful God met me in the midst of all this. Still have a long way to go. I’m just thankful that God has it all taken care of. Thanks for opening up like you did. God’s best to you.

5 08 2015
lessonsbyheart

Mmm. Yes, we do the best we can with what we know – and trust the Lord to work it all into a masterpiece.

Thanks for taking the time to read. 🙂

\o/

5 08 2015
blmaluso

It is very freeing as the layers come off one by one, isn’t it?

My God continue to bless you:-)
Bernadette

5 08 2015
lessonsbyheart

Although I’ve dismissed many vows (dozens!) over the last year, I did not gain clarity as to how it affected me until I wrote this today. Phew! No wonder it was so hard to figure out what to do.

Thanks for your comment, and support. May Abba give you a special ‘hug’ today. 🙂
\o/

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