Oct 23, 2016 at By Norris Burkes

Have you ever made an outlandish promise or bet with someone and later reneged?

On a recent fall morning, my wife reminded me that I’d nearly done such a thing. We’d just awoken with the morning alarm when she noticed me retreating into the covers.

“Aren’t you running this morning?” my wife asked.

“It’s too cold,” I replied, with my best helpless-man whiny voice.

She kissed my upper left arm, her not-so-subtle reminder of a wild promise I’d made in 2012 to my adult children. That was the year I registered for a marathon.

My kids didn’t believe their old man could run 26 miles, so I made this astonishing promise: “If I finish Sacramento’s California Marathon, I’ll get a tattoo.”

I had little reason to believe I’d make good on my grandstanding. I had some injuries that made me doubt my ability to complete the training, much less start the race.

But I not only started, I slam-dunk finished in the biggest rainstorm we had in years. In fact, I even thrived enough to run the Air Force marathon nine months later. Yet, still no tattoo.

Ten months later I was in San Luis Obispo, Calif., for my annual two-week training with the Air National Guard. A week into this “hardship tour” my chaplain assistant, Rob “Web” Webster, and I were enjoying happy-hour specials in a local pub with several Guard members. Suddenly, my assistant puts a dare on the table.

“Chaplain! When are you going to get that tattoo you promised?”

His question caused some beer mugs to make a hard landing on the table. A young lieutenant seated at the adjoining table raised an inquiring eye that prompted Web to share my promise with God and everyone.

I wanted to remind Web that we’d both promised our wives that we would look out for one another. I’d assumed that Web’s duty might include protecting a chaplain from himself, but he clearly intended to shirk that part.

“There’s a tattoo parlor within walking distance,” Web said.

“Of course there is,” I said. “They’re always within walking distance of a bar or military base.”

“Looks like it’s time to get that tattoo,” challenged the LT. Several responded with an “amen.” Fast-forward through the next painful hour that felt like the continuous scratching of a cat.

Now, return with me to that cold fall morning last week.

My wife kissed my tattooed arm to remind me of a promise I’d made. No, not the impulsive silly promise that defaced my arm with a blue running man tattoo the size of a half dollar.

She was reminding me that I’d gotten the tattoo as a promise to myself – a promise to stay fit and not give up the run.

While she doesn’t consider it the smartest thing I’ve ever done, she does know that the running man is more than a mark on my arm, hidden under my short sleeve shirt. I’d put it there to encourage myself to keep running, to keep working and to continue to thrive into my senior years.

Perhaps that’s what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he told Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7-8) “I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting – God’s applause!”

My wife knew, as Paul knew, that the promises that probably matter most in life are those that you make to yourself. They are the promises you make to become a better person, to walk more deeply in faith and to run life’s race with resilience.

These are promises we must never forget.

– Get Norris Burkes’ latest book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving” at www.thechaplain.net. Write him a comment@thechaplain.net or call 843-608-9715.