Saturday, October 25, 2008

Covenant, Covenant, Who's Got a Covenant?

There are so many things I wish I had known when I was younger. Do we all have that wish? Maybe. So much of what I have learned to this point has come from the knocks and dings of adult life and responsibility.

I remember when I got married in 1966, I had no idea how to maintain a house. I had lived alone for awhile but always had a back-up domicile. When I was living in a tiny place in the Columbia River Gorge and working as a welfare caseworker in Skamania county, I went home to my parents' home every weekend, taking my laundry. The most domestic things I did were to cook my own meals, change the cat litter, and put my garbage out.

Before Larry and I were married, his apartment was my backup and I was just camping out in my own small place. When we got married and actually lived in a house, I was overwhelmed by the demands of living in a house and things got pretty sticky----literally! One day that "sticks" in my memory was the time I didn't know to pierce the skin of the sweet potatoes I had put in the oven. When I reached in with my fork to pull them out, they exploded all over the interior of the oven AND the kitchen. Not understanding the tenacity of sweet potato flesh, I waited to clean it up until way too much later. (I think remnants of that poor potato were glued to the ceiling when we moved, a year afterward!)

But what I'm thinking about right now is the request by the leader of our upcoming ministers' retreat that we write down the particulars of the covenants that we have lived by in our lives. Our UUMA chapter is beginning to work on our collegial covenant with one another, laying out the ways we want to be in relationship.

I'm afraid that most of my covenants (as opposed to the work contracts I've signed) have been seat-of-the-pants kinds of things. I don't think I've ever worked out a covenant with anyone, not even in my marriage. Strictly S.O.T.P, as I've said. It's a little embarrassing to admit this. I have carried unspoken expectations around in my head with every relationship I've ever been in, but few have had any dialogue connected with them.

Not surprisingly, any of those relationships which did not last expired because of those unspoken expectations in my head and, doubtless, in the other person's head. It never occurred to me to talk about what our covenant together might be. In marriage, of course, this is pretty problematic. Larry and I were awfully dumb about what marriage meant and though we stumbled through it for 13 years, we never really "got it".

So here I am, eligible for Medicare, and am just now learning how to create a covenant that is respectful and protective of each person and good for the group. I hope I finally learn how to do this.


LinguistFriend said...

There was interestng discussion of this at the 2006 GA in St. Louis. Peacebang and a member of her congregation gave a useful presentation on the congregational covenant process and its content.
You are thinking more broadly, of course.

faded said...

I heard a teaching on covenants awhile back. I will try and remember it as best I can.

A Covenant has several parts.

One. It is between you and God and possibly another person or group of people.
Two. It has actions that you are supposed to perform.
Three. It has promises that will be honored if the actions are performed.
Four. It has sanctions that will occur if the actions are not performed.
Five. It has inheritance. The covenant continues after you die.

A covenant is similar to a contract except for the following differences. It has inheritance so it continues where a contract would end with your death. The power of God is invoked to add authority to it. The invocation of God makes a covenant a faith based activity.

These characteristics give a covenant the authority to be foundational documents that you can build your life on. You see them used again and again in the Hebrew scriptures as a way to describe a relationship with God, organize a society or set a basis for how an individual will lead their life.

A marriage is a specialized form of covenant. A marriage does not have inheritance, per say. The inheritance in a marriage is passed to the children that are produced by the union between the couple.

Another example of a conventional covenant is the combination of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Those two documents together have all the characteristics of a covenant. It has been a powerful covenant with some amazing results. You will notice that they invoked God in the Declaration of Independence, they did not describe Him.

I heard this teaching when I was in my 20's. It has been eminently useful to me. Since you were asking about covenants I figured I would pass it along.

Miss Kitty said...

This is a freaking awesome post, Ms. K. I also like readers' comments.

I, too, am stumbling through life trying to figure out the idea of covenants. I've been divorced for almost 10 years and haven't even come close to marrying again--I refuse to go through another divorce, and if I go that route again I want someone who's gotten his s**t straight just as I've gotten/am getting mine. It'd be great to find someone who would take the "covenant" idea of marriage (or any other relationship) seriously.

Sorry, went off topic. It was that awesome a post.