Words with No “Wiggle Room”

Not only does the month of June sort of kick Summer into gear, it has historically been the month when we’re most likely to get a wedding invitation. The June wedding tradition apparently goes all the way back to Roman times when they celebrated the union of the mythical gods Juno and his bride, Jupiter, who was declared to be the goddess of marriage. Later, during Victorian times, June was popular because flowers were blooming, and some historians claim that the flowers were important. Not only did they add color to the ceremony, but their fragrance helped offset the body odor of the participants. Today’s wedding planners, then, ought to praise God for the invention of deodorant. Just imagine how hard it must have been to arrange placement of the guests so that the important people were closest to the flowers and up wind from those guests with the most noticeable “air” about them.

Marriage is the initial step in the process of developing God’s most wonderful interpersonal invention–the family. Weddings provide the celebratory garb in which we wrap the marriage of two people and present them as a new family to the public. Weddings are full of joy, bright colors, music, flowers, food, and beautiful people who smell good. In spite of all that, the invitations aren’t always met with a dance of joy. I recall one that I was not thrilled about, and not just because I didn’t want to cough up the money for a gift.

Caught in the Web ~
In the first place, I didn’t really know the people involved. I was caught like a hapless, innocent bug in a spider’s web–trapped in the sticky grip of workplace relationships. Someone I didn’t know planned a wedding for a “happy couple” I had never met. There was a connection with someone close to a woman who worked with my wife, and of course, they began to talk. As all of us guys know, when women begin to talk about weddings, a mood-altering chemical is released in their brain that results in a state of nuptial intoxication. Its effects inevitably spread to the innocent men they’re married to and after that, it’s pretty much “game over.”

Feeling disconnected wasn’t my only point of resistance. The event was going to be held on Saturday afternoon, and let’s face it, that’s just cruel. Forcing a guy to wear his church clothes on Saturday and making him sacrifice the best part of his best day off, hanging out with people he doesn’t know, munching on little crackers covered with unrecognizable stuff with no identifiable taste, while people drone on and on about things we don’t care about, sounds like something that ought to be done to enemy combatants at Gitmo, not to reasonably nice (most of the time) God-fearing, church-going guys like me.

A stronger man would have thrown himself down the stairs and secured a bona fide medical excuse topped off with lots of “poor baby” attention, but lacking the resolve needed for such heroics, I was trapped. My expectations of misery regarding the gala event were neither misplaced nor overstated. They did have cake, but in light of the other challenges, the morsel of confection I got was a pathetic trade-off. When a guy with deep Baptist roots finds himself in a socially-constrained atmosphere surrounded by loud-talking, alcohol-imbibing people whose worldview is totally oppositional to his own, offsetting that takes a lot of cake.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. A few guys looked about as miserable as me, and that was encouraging, and there was even a spiritual takeaway or two worth mentioning. But the most mentally provocative observation had nothing to do with comments made by the “progressive” folks around me. It was the wedding ceremony itself.

A Pretty Shaky Promise ~
The couple composed and recited their own “vows,” not uncommon in weddings these days and generally not problematic, but theirs were different. They identified various qualities that attracted them to one another and shared experiences they cherished, but something was missing. In the entire ceremony, neither actually promised the other anything. The closest thing to it was an affirmation that their devotion would continue “…for as long as love lasts.” What was implied was that their devotion would be dependable as long as they continued to feel whatever combination of emotions they construed to be “love.” Their choice of words left an ample supply of “wiggle room,” and I was reminded that when issues of great significance are before us, danger always lurks in obscurity.

People often use vague or ambiguous language to grant themselves a way out in case things don’t unfold as planned. Employing obscure generalizations can represent a tempting escape hatch in case things go wrong, but in matters fraught with grave consequences, deductive assumptions are unacceptable. We wouldn’t want a lack of clarity from our surgeon, and we certainly don’t want it from God.

Vital Issues Demand Clarity ~
When God’s promise of a son looked humanly impossible, perhaps Abraham figured that it was just metaphorical. Maybe he thought God didn’t really mean what He said, and that fulfillment of His promise depended upon his own cleverness and creativity. We flawed creatures often think that way, but when God makes a promise, He is wonderfully explicit. A simple phrase in Paul’s reference to God’s exchange with Abraham is telling:

For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” Romans 9:9 (NKJV)

The word of promise from God is never a vague suggestion offering hopeful assumptions. The promise of God to Abraham was not an exercise in ambiguity. He said plainly that Sarah herself would bear a son, not a surrogate with an offspring they could claim as fulfillment. Sometimes God couches things in the language of mystery, but when it comes to promises involving our redemption, He is a paragon of specificity. There is no confusion in Jesus’ words,

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6 (NKJV)

The explicit nature of those words holds glorious hope for those who believe them, but that same divine clarity portends eternal disappointment to those who want to cloak them in murky metaphors in search of “wiggle room.”

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  • “Weddings are full of joy, bright colors, music, flowers, food, and beautiful people who ‘smell good.'” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “In the entire (wedding) ceremony, neither actually promised the other anything. The closest thing to it was an affirmation that their devotion would continue “…for as long as love lasts.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “When issues of great significance are before us, danger always lurks in obscurity.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “In matters fraught with grave consequences, deductive assumptions are unacceptable. We wouldn’t want a lack of clarity from our surgeon, and we certainly don’t want it from God.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “When God makes a promise, He is wonderfully explicit.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “The word of promise from God is never a vague suggestion offering  hopeful assumptions.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)
  • “God couches things in the language of mystery, but when it comes to promises involving our redemption, He is a paragon of specificity.” @GallaghersPen (Click to Tweet)

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About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World." For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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4 Responses to Words with No “Wiggle Room”

  1. Ron, My husband and I took our vows very seriously. “For better or worse” meant to each other AND to God. It was a covenant.
    When we did that, we placed God at the center of our marriage. And boy, I’m glad we did. There have been times we needed God to be the glue to hold us together. Even people who love you will let you down at some point. God will not.
    I’m so grateful that God is who He says is and does what He says He will do.

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    • Somehow I missed this, Beckie– was doing some traveling and had a few other issues going on and I guess I just didn’t see it, but I’m so grateful for your strong and articulate stance for God’s principles wherever you find them, especially in your own life, which gives your words credibility and power. God bless you for your faithful stand and loving demonstration of His grace.

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  2. When it comes to God’s Word, thank goodness, there is no wiggle room! He means what He say – always.
    Blessings, Ron!

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    • I’m always amazed at how quick we are to grab whatever nebulous piece of “science” the world system throws at us and hang onto it without question while questioning every syllable of the things Jesus said with irrefutable clarity. In response to a simple “yes” or “no” question, I watched a leftist political hack on TV last night dance around like he’d been asked to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity. Thank you, Martha, for always recognizing truth and not bringing your dance moves into discussions about God and what He’s had to say.

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