8/1/2014 2:13:00 PM Authentic love: Choosing commitment in a world that devalues it
A friend of mine recently got a text message from a fellow, asking her to confirm her attendance at a planned ski trip the next weekend. My friend, slightly annoyed, said, “I’ve already told him twice that I’m going. People just don’t follow through anymore, so no one trusts anyone’s commitment.” I thought this was a vaguely enlightening comment.
My friend ended up not going, canceling the day before the trip.
I thought this was even more enlightening.
This ski trip, granted, is a minor example, or a microcosm if you will, but what is it about commitment that is so daunting? Is it human nature, or is it our culture? Is it fear that drives us to avoid it, or a sense of entitlement, teasing us into believing that we have the right to drop whatever it is we’re invested in and move on if something else sounds more appealing? Another friend challenged me to stop replying with non-committal answers when invited somewhere, but instead to check my calendar and commit, then and there. “Simple,” I thought. “I don’t have a problem with that.”
Well, turns out I do. How simple it is to consider an invitation, ponder briefly whether it is the best thing that might happen, and then (despite a blank calendar page) say, “Let me get back to you.” Why do I do this? Honestly, I do this because, even without being fully aware of it, I am weighing the possibility that at that particular time I might not want to be doing that thing. Maybe I will be tired. Maybe I will be invited to do something better. Maybe I won’t be in the mood.
This is certainly not what Jesus would do, nor is it what I, as a Christian should do. I began to examine my intentions, evaluating how many other areas of my life this carries into. In how many other ways am I either lazy or overly idealistic? How does this play out into my commitment to prayer, to my spiritual life, and into my hopes and goals for the future? Our culture tells us that this mode of thinking is acceptable, normal, and even encourages it, but when I began to examine how this affects my view of relationship I was stunned. This mode of thinking leads us to a relativistic outlook and a very utilitarian mentality — one that is directly opposed to the idea of vocation and of the total gift of self that Christ calls us to.
How? Because suddenly I am a friend if I feel like being a friend; a significant other if I feel like it; a spouse if it suits me. The other person has been reduced to a mode of my own gratification. If this is how we are led to think then of course we balk at commitment, as we are not conditioned to meet things for the long haul. We are fed by the media, compelling us to believe that being truly free entails the ability to get up and leave whenever we feel like it — be it a party, a friendship, a relationship, or a marriage. We are pushed to examine our dating and married relationships by our own appetites: are you enough for me, are you meeting my needs, are you the best person I could be with? When did these become the questions we ask in relationships?
Should not my question be: how can I best serve, and do we call one another on to Christ? Should not my prayer be: Lord, prepare my heart, that I might meet you with and through my spouse? To commit to something means that it will not always be easy, nor will it always meet our ideals, nor will it ever be perfect. But it will be blessed and fruitful, and it will bring a greater joy. Only Love Itself is perfect — and the great paradox is that it is only opening ourselves in humility to our own limitations, and those of one another, that we can truly chose and commit to Christ, and thus live out an authentic vocation.
The writer holds a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is currently completing a Master's in biblical theology at John Paul the Great Catholic University. A native of Portland, she recently moved back to her Northwest home after working in youth ministry in San Diego.