Monday, November 25, 2013

The Power of Promises

I have been listening to the audio book of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Robert A. Caro published this Pulitzer Prize winning biography back in 1975. (Before you rush out to get a copy, be aware that it's 1344 pages in length.) Robert Moses had a vision for parks -- places to play and rest -- and became the power behind the development of such parks and the parkways (limited access highways) to get to them.

What began as a desire to beautify and provide something helpful to the millions who moved into New York from around the world, got warped into a way for Mr. Moses to collect and wield personal power. He learned the tricks of patronizing, bullying, and character assassination to literally bend elected politicians to his will. One of his favorite ploys was lying. He would intentionally underestimate the cost of a project so that elected officials would release the money to do it. He knew that, once a project was started, those same officials couldn't afford the political fallout of calling it a failure and stopping it. Instead, they would just release more money to pay the real cost of the project, the cost that Moses knew from the very beginning. He used this deception again and again.

The result of Robert Moses' actions was that millions considered him a genius and a friend of the little guy throughout most of his life. It was only at the end of his career when the judgment of history would tell the true story of his corruption. I thought of him and did a quick comparison to another man who lived during a similar era: my dad.

"My word is my bond," my dad used to say. If he gave his word to someone, it carried the same weight as a stack of notarized documents. As I write this, I can hear the voice of Samwise Gamgee saying, "I made a promise, Mr. Frodo; a promise..." in The Lord of the Rings. Sam wouldn't let Frodo sneak off into Mordor by himself. Why? Because he promised. And Samwise kept his promises. That's the way my dad lived his life. You gave your word and you kept your word; your integrity rested upon it.

I'm reflecting as I write this, thinking about the many people I know whose dads (and/or moms) made promises that they didn't keep. They may have been as intentionally corrupt as Robert Moses, or they could have simply developed weak character, not learning to follow through on their words. Either way, those unkept promises left a mark. For many, those empty pledges have become like an emotional leprosy, constantly eating away at things like joy and hope. Dwelling in those shadows can cause a person to believe that ALL promises are made to be broken.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we kick off our Christmas study in God's Word. It is fitting that we begin with a simple, profound reminder: God keeps His promises! This message could be the best gift you receive in all the Christmases of your life. Bring a friend and join us at Stone Ridge! Can't be there? Catch the podcast!