Promises, promises

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. ... You can count on it.” —Jeremiah 29:11-14 (The Message)

It was in 1970 that George Zimmer graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, with a degree in economics.

Some three years later, George and two of his college classmates opened their first clothing store in Houston, Texas. They named the store “Men’s Wearhouse.”

It was in 1986 that George Zimmer made his first TV commercial. Staring into the camera, George made a promise that has become familiar to all of us. He said, “You’re going to like how you look, I guarantee it.”

It was a promise that resonated with people and made them want to come to one of his stores. What most people don’t know is that George goofed; he made a mistake. He messed up! He wasn’t supposed to say, “I guarantee it.” He was supposed to say, “That’s a fact, Jack,” which is a takeoff of the catchphrase made popular by actor Bill Murray in the movie “Stripes.”

It turned out to be an excellent mistake. His simple promise produced a billion-dollar business.

Promises, promises! Many of us have heard the adage, “Promise less and deliver more.” The premise is simply that who wants to make a guarantee and fail? Yet a promise is our way of sending a message.

In our communities, there are many ways we make promises. Scouts make promises to do their best, do their duty and obey the scout law. Politicians make plenty of promises that they hope to keep. In our faith choices, we make promises to believe and practice. As members of The United Methodist Church, we promise to support the church with our time, talent, gifts, service and witness.

We make promises all the time! At work, at school or in our neighborhoods. The proverbial “fly in the ointment” to making promises is fear. Can we deliver on our promise?

Physicians suggest we are born with only two fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Everything else is of our own making. As adults, our fears are so great, we rename them phobias. Arachnophobia, claustrophobia, xenophobia to name a few. These fears of ours, whether real or make-believe, tear at our confidence and wreck the promise within us. In many ways, it is the difference between breaking promises and keeping them.

So once again it’s a new year, a time when we make resolutions. All of us desire a clean slate to bring change to our circumstances and improve our quality of life. The task at hand for each of us is to make a list of those promises we will resolve to do in the following months.

Maybe this Scripture will be an inspiration: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is a promise to count on.

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