Recently, I talked with a student who visited six graduate schools. In each one of them he was assured that he was the type of candidate that they are looking to have. He interviewed with the professors and the chairpersons of the departments and in his mind his problem would have been choosing one of the many schools that looked so promising. His shock in April was that out of the six schools only one said yes, and that one offered absolutely no financial help. He was devastated. Did he miss something very important in the conversation? His grades were excellent, his GRE was high, and he was often praised as a fantastic student.
As I was listening to his story, I was reminded of a story that my Ph.D. mentor told me. He studied in France and at the first meeting he was amazed at friendship that the French mentor/professor exhibited. Mon bon ami, mon cher ami were daily greetings. He thought that he has found a friend in a foreign land. It took him a couple of months to figure out that this was how the professor talked with all his mentees, but outside of the classroom they were strangers to him.
Then I taught of how many times a particular friend would say to me whenever he heard me preach, “You preach so well! I should invite you to speak in my church!” After close to 10 years of friendship, I am still waiting for that invitation to preach in his large church. Is he saying this to many people that he hears preaching, and they, like me, are waiting for his invitation?
I have become more careful with my promises. The Bible says, “Let your yes be yes and your nay be nay; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).” When people call me to pray for them, I ask them if they want me to pray on the spot. That is the best guarantee that I am praying for them. I am surprised at how often the people say, “You do not need to pray right now!” If people want to make an appointment, I ask them to bring their calendar and we will make an appointment. If I do not have my calendar, I write it on a piece of paper and when I get to my office I put it on my calendar and I send them an email to confirm our appointment.
There have been so many broken promises. Individuals made promises to one another, governments made promises to their citizens, educators and clergy made promises to students and parishioners and business people make promises to their clients. There are inevitably some promises because of certain unforeseen circumstances cannot be kept but these should be in a very small minority. What I am writing about are promises that all of these people make knowing that they cannot keep or for which no effort will be made to be kept.
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The other extreme is never to make a promise. People will not promise that they will show up because they are not sure that they will keep the appointment. People will refuse to serve on a committee because they never know what will happen next week
Based on many passages in the Scripture, I believe that it is a part of our humanity and our relationship would God that we should be able to make reliable promises. God makes his promises and he keeps them. Because we are made in the image and the likeness of God, we should be able to make promises and keep them. Because we are the redeemed people of God we should be able to venture forth, make promises, and then seek to fulfill them.