Have you heard of breakfast used as an analogy for commitment?
If you have, I’m willing to bet that you’ve attended church for a decent chunk of your life. It’s seemingly a favorite amongst us preachers. It might have sounded a bit like:
A chicken is involved in bringing you breakfast.
A pig is committed.
The eggs in your breakfast were not too terribly difficult for the chicken to provide. But the bacon? Well, the pig had to give up quite a bit more than the chicken did.
A story about commitment
I kept trying to describe what commitment could look like for you, but I got stuck on how to describe it. So instead, let me tell you a story that you may already be familiar with.
A woman by the name of Naomi moved to a foreign land with her husband and their two sons. Tragically, her husband died in this foreign land, but Naomi and her two sons made due. Her sons grew and married local women, Orpah (No, not Oprah. I did read once that Oprah was actually named Orpah but the “r” and “p” were flipped when her birth certificate was written to read Oprah. True story? I’d like to think so...) and Ruth.
10 years after Naomi’s relocation, tragedy struck her once more: both her sons died, leaving behind their respective wives and rendering Naomi childless (on top of being a widow).
Heartbroken, Naomi decided to make the trek back to her home. She had nothing left for her in this foreign land. But she pleaded for her daughter in-laws to stay behind, to return to their families and to remarry and bear children. Both Orpah and Ruth resisted, wanting to remain loyal to their mother in-law.
“Turn back, my daughters,” Naomi urged. “Why would you go with me? Will there again be sons in my womb, that they would be husbands for you?”
This, admittedly, is an odd thing to say. But that was the custom back then: If your husband died, your brother in-law would take you in as his wife.If that brother in-law turned new husband died, then the next brother in line would take you in as his spouse. And so forth.
Basically, Naomi is saying “I ain’t got nothing for you” and releasing them to continue on with their young lives and leave her be to carry her burdens, heartache and suffering back home.
Orpah relented and kissed Naomi goodbye. Ruth stayed.
Naomi insisted Ruth leave — which always takes my mind to the movie trope of someone trying to let their dog go.
You know I really love you, right Sparky? We’ve had some good times together, but... things are getting tough and, well, I can’t take care of you anymore. I gotta let you go back to the woods whence you came from.
Hey, now! Don’t look at me like that! We both know what’s gonna happen if you come with. So go on! Get! Scram! Get outta here! It’s for your own good dummy!
Didn’t you hear me? Go on! Get gone! You know what? I don’t even want you no more! So go! Scram! Get outta here! You don’t want me! I don’t want you! GO! GOOOOO!
Sorry, I got carried away...
But Ruth didn’t go away. As insistent as Naomi was on Ruth leaving, Ruth was even more insistent on staying with her mother in-law.
Ruth responded :
Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.
Naomi relented to Ruth’s commitment to her. Ruth’s words are often used in weddings. But this is more than a vow of love. It’s a promise of tenacious, sacrificial commitment.
In a situation where no one would blame Ruth for going back home, she yoked her life to Naomi’s and said, “I’m with you. All the way.”
It’s a huge sacrifice for Ruth. She faced going to a land where foreigners and widows were the least of the least — and Ruth is both.
Money would be scarce, because there were no men in either of their lives to claim them.
Her prospects of marriage were uncertain at best because she is a widow and a foreigner. And whatever chance of her ever seeing her birth family would be gone forever.
Ruth knew this path was costly. She knew this path was filled with uncertainty and the unknown. She knew this path would not be easy. Yet, whatever worries, concerns, losses, fears she may have weighed, she tossed them all aside and walked this path of love with Naomi.
What commitment requires
After revisiting this story, I realized one of the elements of commitment for me is intentionality. I say that because too often, we confuse routine with commitment.
Just because we do something all the time doesn’t necessarily reflect our commitment to it. If there’s no intent behind it, it eventually becomes routine; something we can do absentmindedly. That’s not commitment.
Ruth was intentional in her commitment to Naomi. She was intentional in how she would love Naomi.
It’s one thing to show up on Sunday morning like you’ve done for the past decade. It’s another thing to be intentional with your presence in one way or another:
- To expect a divine encounter/experience;
- to be intentional in connecting with someone new before worship;
- to be intentional in inviting someone to lunch after service;
- to intentionally add a blessing to someone you encounter;
Because without intention, our efforts turn into a routine and a routine isn’t necessarily a commitment.
Routine without intention, at best, makes us involved — like a chicken and her eggs.
And we mistakenly think that we may be committed.
But when we are intentional with our actions and our love in all that we do, it can show that we are committed to what we are doing, much like how a pig is committed to bringing the bacon to your bacon and eggs breakfast.
Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.