An old song comes to mind when I think of this topic. “I made a vow to the Lord and I won’t turn back.” Vow – a solemn promise. Specifically, “one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition.” We vow to be faithful to our spouse in matrimony. We vow to love God and serve no other when we accept Christ into out hearts. These are definitely good promises to make. But there’s a different kind of vow that can end up hindering our growth, stunting our potential. It’s the inner vow – the ones we make to ourselves.
Lot’s of things happen internally. We go into defense or preservation mode in our psyche as a way of protecting ourselves. When we have been deeply hurt, we may not only shut down and pack the experience down into a deep dark box way in the back of our mind, but we may vow to never be placed in certain situations because we don’t want to experience that pain ever again! We may say things like, “I’ll never be like my (insert least favorite family member here)!” Or “I’ll never let my children go without what they want!” These things on the surface seem ok especially if the relative was abusive or you as a child went without basic necessities.
But my experience with inner vows is different and probably a pretty common scenario. The kind of vow where we take our lives into our own hands. We promise ourselves that we will never give up our control again. We will put certain stakes in the ground so that we can protect ourselves. We will never trust again because, well…remember that last time?? These are some subtle inner vows that when you look at them closely they seem to say one thing. I don’t trust God to take care of this for me so I’ll do it myself. When we do this, we are left to our own devices. All the pressure to keep us afloat, to keep us sane, to keep us safe (we think) are done within our own power. These are the times we end up frustrated, stunted and stressed out.
I broke 2 inner vows that I didn’t realize I had made until I was on a prayer call and someone began to pray about the specific ones I had made!! 😮 I’m a widow of 2 years and told God (1) I never wanted to marry a pastor/minister, nor (2) do I want a man dedicated to the church. Now, on the surface you might think, “She must be crazy! I’d love to have a man like that!” This was due by and large to my past experience. I’ll just say this, often pastors/ministers are so fixated on “the call” that they overlook their first calling, which is to their home. There’s a lack of balance and this is very unfortunate. Things may look fine and dandy to outsiders, but no one knows what really goes on but the ones who live in that home. So I said Lord, I want just a regular God-fearing man who loves you and that’s enough.
The second vow was made because God is delivering me and releasing me from religion. I LOVE God so much and this freedom, y’all!! It has been incredible! I don’t want to go back under “church” oppression.
In Matthew chapter 15, the Pharisees are challenging Jesus about why his disciples are breaking a tradition (not washing their hands before eating). He basically told them that they were hypocrites because they “cancel God’s commands by their rules” (The Message). Then Jesus went on to say in verses 8 and 9 that people honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him and they worship in vain. Their teachings are merely human rules. (NIV paraphrased…read it) I have had my fill of dedication to human rules. There are many whose allegiance is to church tradition instead of The Church. I am a seeker of Truth, not tradition. This is liberating. So I made a vow.
But here’s what I have come to understand. I am following God in a way that challenges the religious norm and my heart is open to Him in a way it wasn’t before. When in prayer, my heart is tender toward God in a special way. Hearing these vows called out made me see that I was not trusting God and brought conviction. I was prepared to screen him (whoever he is…lol) right out of my life even if God presented him as the one for me.
But seriously, conviction is when our hearts are sorry and we come closer to God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful and just. Condemnation may cause us to feel sorry but the difference is that it causes us to hide from God in guilt and shame. So do this. If you think you have made an inner vow, one of those “I will never…”, look into your heart and see if you are tender and repentant to God about it. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all Truth, even about the things in our hearts.
I trust God and I’m sorry for thinking I know better than He does what’s best for me. Although I would never say that and didn’t think I had, I see now that I made the vows to protect me. But God’s plans are for peace, hope & a future. He’s got me.
Sis, Bro…You can renounce the inner vow. Repent and let it go. 😇 God’s got us.