Friday, January 13, 2017
Part Two - CASUAL REFLECTIONS ON GROWING UP CHURCHED: "When Christians Cuss"
Growing up churched in the 80s, I was under the impression that people who cussed were "backslidden" in their faith - at best. At worst, well, they were probably not...(whisper)...not even Christian. But that was my experience. Not every churched kid grew up with the same impression, an impression I'm happy to report I've 98% moved-on from (I still blush on occasion), for I've seen God loving people in the midst of cuss words slipping out right and left.
Take my husband, Jeff. When he was in the seventh grade, he committed his first swearing felony, not on a playground or at the mall, but at a church youth group. And his naughty word of choice wasn't said out of habit or anger or because he stubbed his toe, rather he was going for cool-factor, similar to "smoking" candy cigarettes. He went around calling kids dildos. (I admit, that was difficult to type out.)
"Stop being a dildo, dude," he'd joke.
His youth pastor could have gone any number of corny and ridiculous directions. Thankfully he chose the way of grace and truth, for he casually said, "Hey buddy, do you know what that word means?" 'Yeah, it means dork!' "Actually, no it doesn't. And actually, it's super inappropriate. So how about we not say that anymore?"
The youth pastor didn't freak out, didn't shame him, yet still managed to give instructions on how to best proceed. He even called Jeff "buddy" before sending him on his way to "not say that anymore." Not too different from the way Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery: "...neither do I condemn you, now go your way and sin no more." (John 8:11)
My youngest sister, on the other hand, went around calling kids bastards in her youth group. Sadly, she got a completely different reaction from her leader. I don't know the exact details, but reinforcement was called in and she got removed from the youth room. Funny, she also seemed to think bastard was just another way of saying dork. (We kids should've stuck with boring, socially-acceptable "dork.")
Now, I'm not sure how proper it is for a churched girl, such as myself, to have a favorite cussing-in-church encounter, but I do. It happened at a women's Bible study ten years ago. It was the very last meeting of an eight-month-long study. About 300 of us were gathered in a large tent-like room, that's 300 "intergenerational" ladies - a buzzwordy term used when you've got 90-year-old great grandmas mixed with 27-year-old millennials. So you can imagine the varying degrees of shock levels represented should someone happen to swear into a microphone.
She was probably the hottest girl in the room. Who knew hot girls did Bible study? And as the morning's facilitator moved about the room with a mic, asking women to raise their hands and share what God had done in their lives, hot girl raised her hand. And in a sea of church-speak - "God proved himself mighty on my behalf this past year" - only one testimony stood out as genuine, unrehearsed, and heartfelt: hot girl's. Although she struggled putting words together (who wouldn't following such declarations of religiosity?), she clearly remembered what life had been like before putting her faith in a loving and compassionate God. In fact, she flat out told us what her life was like: "My life was shit."
Oh, the gasps for air heard throughout the room, the shifting in seats, the nervous sips of coffee - all so fantastic! I mean, I usually hate awkward moments, but not this time. Sure hot girl's testimony would've been sincere without the cuss word, but not only did it give us self-righteous types a little somethin' to work on internally, it also helped drive home the fact that God is faithful to produce change in a person's heart, starting heart first, not foul language first, and in his own timing. Profanity was obviously the least of God's worries that day.
I'm so thankful God is patient with my faults. He seems to work on them in batches and from the root on up. And when I quickly string together my famous three craps in a row - crap, crap, crap - as I spill coffee on myself, I know God sees my frustration and has a non-shocked, "hey buddy, how about we not say that" way of handling things, always with the perfect amount of truth and grace.