Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spiritual Commitment

I was reading along in a very nice little book and hit these lines about commitment.  The author, Mitch Albom, uses the voice of one of the main characters of his nonfiction book about faith to reflect on commitment.  The voice belongs to Albom’s old rabbi of the Jewish synagogue where he went until his college days.  The old rabbi, Albert Lewis, says “the word ‘commitment’ has lost its meaning.”  

The rabbi continues in a way that surely would have many people saying, “Amen!”  About commitment he says, “I’m old enough when it used to be a positive.  A committed person was someone to be admired.  He was loyal and steady.  Now a commitment is something you avoid.  You don’t want to tie yourself down.”  I also think I am old enough to know that commitment was usually a positive word.  I can think of a range of situations in which commitment would have been seen to be positive. 

For example, growing up was full of sports for me.  Commitment would have been presupposed to be part of a team.  If you were going to play basketball, you made a commitment to the team and the coaches.  You made a commitment to the discipline that went with playing ball.  The discipline was not just on the court.  There was the commitment to some of the rules.  Some rules were quite explicit.  There were dietary rules, etc.  One needed to be committed to these.  Other rules were implicit.  They were not written down, but everyone knew them and was committed to them. 

I agree with the rabbi.  A committed person was someone to be admired.  Again, if I stay with the sports analogy, I remember holding in special esteem some of the older college and professional sports’ figures who “played the game the right way.”  They exemplified commitments to fair play, etc.  They were role models and demonstrated what a young person could become.  Certainly, this was not limited to the sports’ world. 

I like the way Albert Lewis, the rabbi, began to develop what the committed person exemplified.  That person was someone who was loyal and steady.  It seems quite clear to me that loyalty is a hallmark of commitment.  A committed person is not a fair-weather friend.  The committed person is someone who is going to be there---be there for you or for the cause---whatever happens.   

It is easy to contrast this with much of what we see in our world today.  Too many people are driven purely by self-interest.  Of course, I would never say that no one today makes and keeps commitments.  But I would agree that commitment is not what it used to be.  This is not the place to try to argue the case that commitment is not valued the way I think it used to be. 

Instead I am interested in exploring spiritual commitment.  I am quite clear in my own mind that commitment is the glue of the spiritual relationship with the Holy One.  Commitment is relational.  Commitment is connecting---it connects me to someone or something.  There are two basic steps in commitment.  One “makes” a commitment.  Making a commitment entails saying “yes” to someone or something (one can be committed to a principle, for example).  Secondly, having made a commitment, one “keeps” the commitment.  Keeping a commitment is the duration over time of the relationship which was made. 

A spiritual commitment is the engaging and engagement of myself to God.  It is not a one-way street.  God also commits to me.  That is significant.  Not only do I say “yes;” God also says “yes.”  In this sense the commitment is mutual and reciprocal.  That does not make it equal.  In my commitment to God, I am affirming that I will try to be all that I can be.  If I say that I give my heart to God, my commitment means that I will try to do it with all my heart.  But I also am convinced God makes the same commitment.  God also says that the Divine Heart will be poured out to me.  After all, “God so loved the world…” 

Spiritual commitment also has another dimension.  I also think that my spiritual commitment to God has a corollary.  I also will need to commit to all those other human beings who, too, are in a spiritual commitment with God.  God and I implicate God and us.  The implications are clear and, sometimes, stunning to me.  It means I can do no less to you or any other human being than I would do to God. 

I cannot ask for God’s blessings and, in turn, be cursing you!  When something goes wrong, I cannot petition God for mercy and insist that you do justice.  Spiritual commitment is not a commodity, like corn or coal.  Rather it is a relationship.  It is more quality and not quantity.  I can grow and develop my spiritual commitment.  I can deepen it. 

This is the place where I ask God and you, too, to help me in that developing journey of deepening my commitment.

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