Many people, when they hear the word “covenant,” think of the Bible stories about Moses and Abraham and their covenant with God.
They picture the special bond between the father God and these ancient people. Other folks, though not so many in Juneau, I expect, might think about those sets of rules they have in some fancy American suburbs. These neighborhoods have things they call neighborhood covenants to keep thinks looking nice. They have agreed upon policies against lawns that get too long or fences that are too tall.
I believe that a covenant is like a contract, but it involves more than the usual stipulations. It is a contract that involves something greater than yourself. Marriage is a covenant that many of us are familiar with. It is an agreement two people make to live together in a certain way. They each pledge to commit to each other in love and to look to the well being of their spouse as well as their own well being. But the contract is not between the bride and groom alone, it somehow involves those to whom the bride and groom belong; those people and forces with which they have some relationship. The couple makes its sacred vows with the blessings from and accountability to something greater than themselves. For some couples, this means their families. For some, it means their God. For some, it means the spirit of love. For some, it means their community. For some, it means all of the above.
When we become parents, there is an implicit covenant. We not only dedicate ourselves to raising a child because he or she is cute or because others expect it of us. We raise him or her the best we can because it is part of our covenant with the future. We live in the now and we do our best to provide good people for tomorrow. We help make good folks who can carry on after we have gone. We belong to the stream of time and we owe our best efforts to making a bright future.
I invite you to take some time today to think about the covenants in your life. I expect you have a few. No matter how independent a person you are, there are people and places and ideas with which you are connected and you might be surprised how many you have. Do you feel like you belong to the land? If so, what does the land give you and what do you owe back to the land in return? If you see someone with car trouble, stranded along the road, do you feel a duty to help? Why or why not? What is your unspoken agreement with yourself and others about helping someone in need? If a member of your family is sick and needs your care, what is your duty to give this care? Does your duty have any limits? Do you feel a sense of community with other people in this city? What does that mean to you?
These questions are all about your covenants, those contracts and agreements you have with ideas and forces that are bigger than yourself. I believe when we look to and keep our covenants, it can help us to be our best selves. We can call on those people and forces to which we truly belong, to help us live lives of integrity and meaning.
• Schurr is part of the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship