I have been using profanity since I was five and maybe even before that.
By age 8, I was a pro. Compound curses and vulgarities that would make the Navy blush spewed forth from my diminutive frame, and this continued throughout my life.
I would cut back from time to time and even abstain. Until I got older.
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I prided myself on articulately expressing myself, reading books, and thinking things through before I spoke, and I would litter my speech with f-bombs and s-words where I deemed appropriate as a hipster way of communicating edginess and strong emotion.
At the age of 30, I became a Christian, and I learned just how negatively other Christians would view a cussing Christian. In response, I hid my cussing as best as I could. At home, I was still full of bad words and obscenities, because it was now a habit.
A long ingrained habit.
One day, I heard a Christian woman say that her neighbor cussed and claimed to be a Christian but that she didn't know how he could even be born again. I shuddered to think that I wasn't truly saved, so I said the sinner's prayer again. More cussing ensued.
I tossed and turned at night, not knowing if I were a Christian or not.
There is nothing more terrifying than to believe you might drop into hell at any given minute, but I could not stop the flow of profane words.
I determined I would stop.
But I wasn't able.
The guilt consumed me, because I was supposed to be a good Christian, and I also knew that if others knew of my hideous use of language that my ministry would lose all credibility.
I was now a hypocrite. A raging two-faced, pretending fraudster unfit for service.
I was in a pinch. Nobody knew I cussed....but they do now, so I guess we'll see what happens.
In 2015, I had a child. This child didn't like sleeping on her back in a crib alone through the night. After laying down and sleeping 20 minutes, I would hear it: the distinct hiccoughing baby sounds that will lead the shrieking fiercer than that of a hungry wolf pack.
My eyelids, heavy from sleep, and my body lugging all the extra baby weight struggled to get up, but I would somehow lumber over to where she was and manage to feed her the milk that oozed from my body.
The trouble was when this cycle would repeat. I would lay down again, and baby would start to whimper 20 minutes later. Jarred out of a deep sleep and aware of the need to get up yet again and latch her to my boob, I would cuss under my breath.
And then I would feel bad for having cussed.
And then I would cuss some more.
Add mono to the mix and months of sleeplessness at night, and the streams of mumbled, garbled, loudly-whispered, mostly-to-myself profanity that came forth from my lips would definitely have tanked my ministry.
Now, it may seem that I am more concerned about my ministry than my cussing, but what I am saying is this: there is so much judgement on this one sin. And what I am REALLY saying is that I knew others would look down on me.
I am not saying people should cuss, but I think it's a habit many Christians never had in the first place, and so the condemnation is heavy regarding it, making those who do struggle with it feel they can't approach God anymore.
We're kind of heavy on those sins we've never crossed paths with for some reason.
Cussing automatically makes you a pariah. A flunk-out. One to be avoided. And hiding it makes you a mask-wearing hypocrite with a double life, and this also voids your ministry.
I volunteered my time to work with children. I worked through near-perpetual sickness, and I also tried to help ease the loneliness of those in the nursing home. I played guitar for anyone who would listen, and I sang gospel tunes to those in need of a friend. I gave to charity, I loved the least of these, and I gave my money away to help the less fortunate. I took in a foster child.
But I know that none of that would matter, because I have this habit.
Tattoos, smoking, same-sex attraction, and cussing all fall into a certain category of sin: we don't tolerate people who have these things. It's funny how these are sins most mainline Christians don't have an ongoing struggle with, or at least it's not one we'll admit to publicly.
We'll tolerate being unloving, gluttony, stinginess, pettiness, gossiping, cliquishness, anger, fear, and a host of other sins and even welcome you on the planning committee, but let an f-bomb fall from your lips, and you're out.
I'm not defending cussing. What I am trying to express is the sheer misery I have gone through a 3 in the morning, hating myself because I can't make myself stop.
Why am I even trying to anyway? My flesh is weary. My will is weak.
This is something only God can do, and I were honest, I'd tell you that each time I slip, I'm waiting fir lightning to strike me down.
But yet, who is this God who forgives and who loves me more than my poorly-spoken swear words.
I'm tired of feeling defeated and like a loser Christian, and I hope we'll stop judging others so harshly for things that have been ingrained since they time that they were born. Like a tattoo, cussing requires surgical removal, a process to remove the deeply embedded toxin.
Also, like a tattoo, this struggle can be more public than others. Some life choices are right there on your sleeve for anyone to peer at.
And until this is rooted out, it makes no sense for you to judge me for my sins any more than it does for me to judge you for yours. After all, none of us can earn our way into heaven with our clean-slate no-cussing records or our tattoo-less bodies or our hetero attracted sexual desires or our lack of gluttony or interest in the latest juicy story.
All of it is meaningless, all of nothing without the cross. You and I are dressed in the filthiest of filthy rags without Jesus. And even now, with all of our imperfections, we stand righteous, dressed in white, as if we'd never sinned. Maybe the sin of disunity and lack of love for one another are some of the greatest sins of all, because without them there would be no hatred, or coveting, or tearing each other down.
After all, being judged never helped me not utter an F-bomb. It just made me try that much harder or sink into feelings of failure when I relented.
Perhaps we can be more like iron that sharpens one another and pray for each other instead of condemning. Maybe we can provide accountability instead of finger wagging and admonish each other in love, because after everything is said and done, it is only love that can cover a multitude of our sins.
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