This month I attended the 2015 John Maxwell conference event in Orlando. As part of the certification of the conference, attendees were expected to prepare a 5 minute speech – no longer and no less. Here is mine:
Do you remember when you were a child? If you were like me you held onto everything your parents said. They were my Superman and Wonderwoman – they were my heroes. And the promises they made meant the world to me.
I remember the exact pivotal moment when my mother lost her hero cape.
I was at the tender age of seven years old.
She was on the phone, as always. “Mommy when are you gonna be off the phone?”
“Shh Debi not now…but if you let mommy finish I promise we’ll go get ice cream after I’m off the phone.”
I waited patiently until she got off the phone.
“Ice cream time!”
“Oh. Debi..it’s too late now, the call took too long, maybe tomorrow.”
I . Was . Devastated.
It was something simple, but for me, it was a broken promise. Clearly it was a big deal, I’m still talking about it 40 years later!
As I grew older the promises got bigger and the ramifications of the broken ones greater. Promises seemed to be easy to make but also so easy to break. I was determined that I would not break a promise, therefore I made very few.
Twenty years ago God blessed me with a son I didn’t ask for and then 4 years later a private school with 16 more children that I didn’t ask for. God really has a sense of humor.
I remember one of the first things I told the kids as a teacher was “I will never break a promise.” The response was in unison “Oh yeah right”.
Well that first year I didn’t make many, but I kept the ones I made. I can remember the students trying to trick me into breaking promises.
“Ms. Debi can we eat lunch outside tomorrow?” “Sure” I said. “You promise?” They’d question. “No I cannot promise.”
“Why?!” they’d ask. Then I’d explain, “Well it could rain or something else could happen out of my control and then I would be breaking my promise & your belief in me would be lost.”
The next year those same students welcomed the new years students and I overhead them tell them that Ms. Debi doesn’t break her promises – “FOR REAL.”
Later I overheard a couple seven year olds….
“Do you promise?”
“Yes I promise.”
“But do you Ms. Debi promise??”
Moments passed. “No I cannot Ms. Debi promise.”
Those same kids passed that promise down to our primary kids, 4-5 years old who I still here using that language as I walk through the halls of my school 16 years later.
I think this promise makes kids and the parents stop, even our teachers, and slowly think: Can I really promise that? Can I really follow through? Can I really commit to that?
Last November my friend of 30 years named Melanie was in her last stages of cancer. I was at her home trying my best to distract her from the pain. She began talking about a race coming up in the spring that she really wanted to run.
I replied: “We’ll run it together, even if I have to push you in a wheelchair.”
She told me: “But if I’m not here then you have to promise to do it without me.”
“I promise.” I promised.
Melanie died a month later.
Several months after the funeral I received an e-mail, “Hello! This is your friendly reminder that it’s not too late to register for the race! You still have time!”
Oh crap. I had totally forgotten. What have I done?
I waited until the last minute to sign up for this race. I battled with whether or not I could actually do the race…but I realized that even though no one else knew that I made the promise except for me…I would know. And if I broke my promise, my Ms. Debi promise would never mean anything to me again.
As I ran – I thought about Melanie. And I thought about the poem I wrote for her that is on her grave stone.
The sun is shining very bright
Jesus is telling us that something is right
That one of His special children is home at last
And that all of her pain and suffering are now in the past
He opened the gates and gladly let her in
And now she has no worry of sadness or of sin
I know it’s hard not to cry and be sad
But try to remember that you must also be glad
Because I know she is saying “It was worth it all”
An angel was by my bed reading when Jesus called
I am home at last and I know I’ll see you soon, and
I’ll be sure that right by me will be your special room
So cry if you must, but smile if you can, because
When Jesus called “I didn’t walk, I ran.”
I believe that the reason promises are so important to me is because it reminds me of our Ultimate Promise Keeper. When I seek to keep my promises it reminds me that He has never broken a promise to me. And He never will.
P.S. What are some promises that you’ve kept? What are some promises that people have kept for you that have meant something meaningful for you? I’d love to hear from you.