Let me describe for you an all-too-common scene in our house. I won’t assign name or gender to the child in this story, so as not to assign blame on one and not others. They are all guilty.
The children arrive home from school and one of them asks, “Mom, can I go over to so-and-so’s house?”
I respond, “Sure. I’ll drive you over there as soon as you’re done your chores and homework.”
The Child proceeds to put away his/her lunchbox and backpack, and then complains about someone else’s backpack taking up too much space in the designated backpack spot. I explain (trying to maintain the tone of voice that one might use when explaining something for the first time, but knowing full well that I’ve explained this exact thing quite a few times before) that perhaps if The Child uses one hand to slide the other backpack over a bit, then he/she could slide his/her backpack into the remaining space quite easily and it’s not difficult to do and there is sufficient room for his/her backpack without completely removing the offensive other backpack and flinging it down the hall.
That dealt with, The Child moves on to his/her chores. Unfortunately, by this point, the vacuum is already in use by someone else, and he/she has to *gasp!* WAIT a few minutes. Does he/she start his/her homework in the meantime? No, of course not. He/she stomps through the house shouting about why he/she NEVER gets to use the vacuum first and the other person ALWAYS gets to do EVERYTHING first and it’s not fair. This, of course, causes the other person to be excruciatingly thorough with his/her vacuuming (for which I really can’t blame him/her).
When the vacuumer is FINALLY finished, The Child drags the vacuum through the house and clunks it down each stair. I feel the clunking as it vibrates the rest of the house and go ask The Child to go back up and try it again, this time carrying the vacuum so it doesn’t just clunk down each stair. The Child mumbles something under his/her breath, so we stop to have a conversation about showing respect, obeying cheerfully and speaking clearly. The conversation takes a while because The Child is having great difficulty showing respect, obeying cheerfully and speaking clearly. Eventually, he/she is free to carry the vacuum back up the stairs and try the descent again. This time, The Child decides to obey sarcastically and carries the vacuum so high that he/she smacks it into the wall. The Child is firmly requested to give it one more try.
At long last, the chores are finished and homework must be tackled. The Child tries to offer some weak argument about this particular homework being optional. I don’t buy it. The Child tries to offer a weak excuse about having forgotten his/her pencil case at school. I generously offer the use of one of the four thousand pencils in the big Rubbermaid bin under the computer desk. The poor, defenceless Child can’t find a pencil that’s sharp enough. I wisely suggest that he/she might make use of one of the many pencil sharpeners which are also to be found in the same bin.
Eventually, The Child has solved the pencil problem (for which he/she expects praise and rewards, as if he/she has saved the rest of the world from an eternity of dull-pencil anguish), and settles at the table to do his/her four math problems. Now The Child needs a calculator.
I’m sure you either know this story well enough that you don’t need the remaining details (because you have kids) or you just think I’m making it all up (because you don’t have kids). Either way, I’ll just skip to the end and make my point. (Yes, there is a point!)
After an hour and a half of The Child’s drama, I am no longer able to drive him/her over to his/her friend’s house. I have supper to make, besides the fact that The Child’s behaviour is not exactly deserving of special favours from me. And at this announcement, the response that The Child offers is, “But YOU SAID you’d drive me over!”
Have I broken my promise to my child in this situation? Of course not! The situation has changed. Perhaps I didn’t specify on this particular day the exact criteria that all needed to be in place in order for me to uphold my end of the bargain. All I said was that I’d drive The Child when chores and homework were done. But, having lived in this family for a while now, and having a solid understanding of the expectations around here, The Child should know very well that respectful attitude, obedience, and using one’s head to make smart decisions about efficiency are implicit components of every basic set of instructions. Should The Child analyze the whole situation honestly, he/she would recognize his/her culpability in the loss of privilege and not dare to place blame on anyone else.
I tell you this story to illustrate a very simple reality: this is how we, as children, often perceive and respond to the promises of God. “But YOU SAID…” Let’s back up and analyze our own actions and attitudes before we accuse the Father of breaking promises.