I just spent such a fun week with a friend! We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the island, from the amazing windward beaches to the beautiful leeward lagoons; from whale watching down south to wave watching on the North Shore; from a sunset walk on Waikiki to a hike overlooking the iconic Moku Nui and Moku Iwi. And as we explored, we ate! Fish tacos, garlic shrimp, burgers, fruit-topped waffles and crepes, malasadas, and of course, shave ice (lots and lots of shave ice).
Needless to say, when my friend left, I had to make a somewhat painful transition back to reality. It will be a busy next few months, during which we must finish school, prepare for graduation, play sports seasons, work, and gear up for this summer’s move. One item on my “back to reality” agenda was a running plan. I had been loosely following this plan, looking ahead to possibly running a half-marathon in a few months; now it was crunch time. I had to make a decision to either fully commit to this training, or to run a race at some other point when I have adequate time to train. I know myself well enough to know that I cannot physically or mentally complete a half-marathon without adequate training. So I sat down and wrote out my exercise plan for each week between now and the race, and committed to follow it diligently, allowing only for minor adjustments to the schedule as necessary.
The next morning, my quiet time scripture was Nehemiah 9:38-10:39. Nehemiah had recently returned to Jerusalem to lead the people in rebuilding the wall around the city. Once the wall was completed, the people gathered together to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law, a book that had been neglected by God’s people for many years. As they heard God’s expectations for His people, those gathered were grieved by their lack of obedience. They immediately reinstituted the annual celebration of the Feast of Booths as prescribed in God’s law, and they confessed their sins as a people. Not only that, but they committed, in writing, to a specific list of ways they would follow God’s law. And the leaders of the people signed this written covenant with God.
This written, signed covenant stood out to me, as I could only recall verbal commitments made by God’s people prior to this time (Ex. 19:8; Ex. 24:3,7; Deut. 5:27; Deut. 26:17; Deut. 27; Josh. 8). However, it turns out that this is not the last written commitment the people made to God. Some time after the writing of this covenant in Nehemiah, the people once again fell into disobedience, and once again came back to God, this time writing a “book of remembrance (Mal. 3:16).” And God found favor with His people, His “treasured possession,” as they renewed their commitment to Him (Mal. 3:17).
Such a public, written covenant is a powerful tool. It brings to bear the weight of accountability, and, often, the force of law, to ensure the fulfillment of a commitment. The written contracts in my life are what I consider to be my most serious obligations. My commitment to my husband is recorded on our marriage license. Any large purchase we have made, such as a house or vehicle, is well documented in a contract, and, therefore, set in stone. I also think of the founders of our country, who all agreed to affix their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. It was Benjamin Franklin who said on that occasion, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Those men were so committed to creating a new nation that they were willing to publicly sign a document that could have been their death warrant.
I wonder how much more successful my Christian walk would be if I would take it seriously enough to write and sign a commitment to the Lord? Perhaps a written monthly Bible study plan, goals for spiritual growth, or specific ways I will commit to live out my faith in service to others would be more effective than just a generalized notion floating inside my head that I intend to spend time studying the Bible, that I should be growing spiritually, that I want to serve others in the name of Christ. Just as I cannot expect to successfully run a half-marathon without fully committing to the training, I cannot hope to live an effective Christian life without a specific plan for growing spiritually.
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…2 Chronicles 16:9a