The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Growing into faithfulness

The promises we make and keep anchor us in truth

A high-school retreat featured a session on sex. The teens wrote questions on a piece of paper, then folded them and placed them in a hat. No one knew who asked which question. Then they passed the hat, each taking a question and discussing it. After a few rounds, one boy pulled out: “How can I find true love?” No one spoke, but all wanted an answer.

After a few moments, one teen ventured, “I guess to find true love you have to find a true person.”

Another chimed in: “Don’t you have to be a true person yourself? I mean, how am I going to be truthful with someone else if I’m not straight with myself?”

The teens knew something a lot of adults never figure out: There is no true love without true people. How does that happen?

A simple answer takes a lifetime to live into: by making and keeping promises. Philosopher Hannah Arendt observes that we find it difficult to guarantee today who we will be tomorrow. Promises anchor us in a sea of possibilities. Some of those promises are implicit. When the shopkeeper at the village market hands me change, I don’t bother to count it. We’ve chatted over my groceries for eight years. I know he acts in good faith. It’s not true love, but he’s shown himself to be someone I can count on.

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