Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thumb Swear and Bend It

I remember one time a few years ago I was working on some things in my office getting ready to go out on one of my teaching, and preaching excursions when I heard a loud ruckus coming from down stairs.

It was really loud, and definitely had the sound of a major argument going on. Someone was displeased and didn't mind letting the other participant know about it, and quite boisterously at that!

The argument reminded me of the time when I was actually trying to get some studying done in my room in college and a loud “fight” broke out among the “scrabblenerds” who were taking part in their weekly Friday night festivities in the dorm lounge.

All of a sudden I heard…crash, bang, pow, smack and another crash followed by this passion filled statement “SNUFFLEUPAGOUS IS TOO A WORD”, and as I burst into the lounge to see what was going on, I walked right into a royal rumble over the fact that the thesaurus was not only wrong, but the writers of it were idiots and didn’t know how to define a word.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. It was really quite funny to watch. I mean right in front of me were guys who had IQ’s that put my little pea brain to shame, guys who were valedictorians and senior class presidents and had bronze plaques marking their upholstered seats in the library on campus.

These guys were smart, sophisticated , and savvy, yet they were engaged in an epic battle of chair throwing, and name calling all because they couldn’t agree on the definition of a word…Now that’s funny!

I remember laughing a lot about that one, but also remember thinking to myself…”Hmm, what would it take for me to stand up and go toe to toe with someone about what I believe in?”

Lots of things came to my mind then, and as I ran down the stairs to investigate the current uprising I overheard, I soon realized that one of those things that I hoped would make me stand up and confront someone was happening in my very presence, with my kids!

As, I swooped down the stairs and rounded the corner, I ran right into another royal rumble of sorts, only this time there were no chairs being thrown, only loud words and lots of tears coming from my daughter, met with a smug little smile and look of accomplishment from my son.

As I tried to intervene and find out what was happening, Serena said “Ethan didn’t keep his promise to me, he said he would do something and he didn’t”…then she said, “HE EVEN THUMB SWORE AND BENT IT!”

As she was talking, I was trying to be a good parent, and follow along so I could understand and deliver judgment if need be…then as soon as she delivered her passionately filled reason for the disturbance, I stopped my nodding and agreeing and looked right at her and said “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

She sobbingly repeated, “Daddy, Ethan said he would do something and he didn’t even after he thumb swore and bent it.”

That was a new one to me, I mean I’ve done plenty of pinky swears, and secret handshakes over the years to help solidify my promise to someone, but I had never heard of this new technique of promise keeping.

I was intrigued. So I said, “What do you mean?” She went on to say, that the kids in her class say this when they are really, really serious about keeping a promise. If you use the thumb swear and bend it card, you better keep your promise or you’re in big trouble.

Wow, so I said something like this “help me understand…if a regular promise is given and broken it’s ok, but if a thumb swear followed by a bending motion of said thumb is given, then its binding?” She was like…”yeah I guess so.”

Unbelievable, here I am with my 8 year old daughter who is willing to stand up, and go toe to toe with her brother all because he broke a severe promise to her. I immediately thought about the first guy who breaks her heart, and what that will do to her (or actually what I will do to him…I’m still working on my application process, but I always tell her she can’t date until she’s 30, so we still have some time.)

My mind then went to all the broken promises that my kids are going to have to learn to process as they get older, promises from friends and family that are going to disappoint them in the coming years.

Our world is full of broken promises everywhere you look, that’s a part of life, but as I stood there watching my kids work through this latest episode, I was reminded right then and there how powerful my words are to them. I mean, if I say I’m going to do something, and don’t follow through, it has an incredible effect on them and their view of their dad.

That is one thing that skewed my view of God when I was younger. I basically thought to myself, “God is my father, huh…if God is anything like my dad, and my step-dad, I want nothing to do with him.”

Then I thought about all the statements that filled my yearbooks from the past. Statements like “We’ll be best friends forever”, “I will love you forever”, “You’ll be mine till the end of time” and “I think you’re FOXY”…well that one was kind of cool, but my point is throughout life we will be disappointed, that’s just the way it is…even if someone thumb swears and bends it!

Then all of a sudden, I was reminded of all the promises that God has made in the Bible. There are actually over 7,000 of them listed in His Word, and every one of them has been kept and will always be kept. He doesn’t let us down, if He says it he means it, and He follows through. I’m so glad that with God there are no levels or severity of His promises.

So, as I began to understand how important it was to my daughter that when a promise is made, it’s kept, I began to internally determine with God’s help to be the kind of promise keeping dad that she needs.
I also realized that my son is watching my every move as well, and if he sees his dad giving flippant promises and not following through, he’s going to model after that as well.

As I was standing there processing the complexity and many levels of this situation I began to get a little overwhelmed, as I realized that this parenting, and promise keeping thing is hard work.
Then I remembered one of the 7,000 promises that I’ve held on to for years, a promise that has always helped, consoled, guided and encouraged my heart in times of turbulence and uncertainty…”I will never leave you, or forsake you.”

No “thumb swear and bend it” needed when God gives it!


  1. Kids are often the best teachers, right? Good word.

  2. [...] don’t get me wrong my kids are far from perfect as “Thumb Swear and Bend it” points out, but God has been so good not only in their lives but with my wife and I as [...]