In my defense, it wasn’t even *me* swearing. It was a swear word on a picture that I’d found ages ago somewhere in the world of cyberspace and had taken a snapshot of on my cell phone. It’s not a word I typically say. Okay, really. Never say. I’m not the swearing type. In fact, I can’t tell you how many people I know who when they are talking around me, they apologize if they use a swear word. Or come up with some kind of swear word euphemism in place of the word they are dying to say and that is usually on the tip of their tongue.
Fact about me: I used to swear like a sailor. It’s true. Try not to fall out of your cozy chair at the thought. It was during my middle school / early high school phase of life. I don’t remember much about middle school, though I do have one distinct memory. I was miserable. Horribly, unexplainably, miserable. I used to sleep on the floor in my bedroom next to the open window in the middle of winter with wet hair, praying I would be too sick to go to school the next morning. All I wanted was to be sick enough to stay home and not have to go anywhere or talk to anyone.
And when I did go to school, which was all the time because when you want to be sick, you’re healthy as a horse, I swore like a sailor. I didn’t know how to express myself any other way and I could not begin to find words to explain how unhappy I was. Or what the source(s) of said unhappiness was.
Another memory I have is of a boy who told me once that he didn’t think girls should swear. Double standard, anyone? Ha. Girls shouldn’t swear. Good thing for him he was so cute or I might have punched him while swearing. Not really. I was all bark and no bite.
Then, came high school. An interesting thing happened in high school. I was still unhappy when my aunt invited me to go to church with her. It had been quite a while since I’d gone to church (a whole other story for a whole other time) and I liked this particular aunt, so I figured I’d go. And I kept going and one day, I accepted Christ into my heart. And shortly thereafter, I quit swearing. As in cold turkey stopped. I didn’t know I had it in me to be honest.
Don’t worry. This isn’t a blog post about the evils of swearing. Remember, just last week I swore on Facebook?
I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I felt urged by the quiet whisper of God to stop using such foul language. In fact, it was kind of nice. I had a strange kind of inner peace going on that got me through some tough times. I don’t believe it was because I stopped swearing, I believe it was because God was there for me.
One thing that I found troubling over the years, though, is that throughout my new life as a Christian, I felt like I had to be “good” to stay in God’s good graces. Do you know what that’s like? One wrong step, one swear word, and you’re out on your hiney. I was tiptoeing through a minefield of issues and feelings and problems and was scared to death that if I didn’t walk the line, I was on my way to Hell.
Thoughts like that happen when it’s drilled into your head and your heart. Am I blaming the church? No. Am I angry about it now? No, I don’t think so. (Though I retain the right to change my mind on that later if it becomes necessary.) What I blame is the false teachings that say if you’re “bad” then God won’t love you.
God is nothing less than freedom and love. He loves me unconditionally (which is more than I can say for some people in my life). He gives me the freedom to choose whether I swear on Facebook or not. He loves me no matter what. Shocking, isn’t it?
Last week, I swore on Facebook. Well, the picture I used did, and I supported it. Two people voiced their opinions about it. One asked me to remove the picture from my wall. Did I? Um, no. I didn’t.
Oftentimes we see the outside appearance of others. We see their mannerisms, hear their voices (and the words they use), and are quick to take stock of what a person is wearing. And oftentimes we cast judgment. It’s true and I admit, I’ve done it too. None of us are perfect, far from it…as can be seen from the cover photo on my personal Facebook page.
What we don’t see, is behind all of that. We don’t see the invisible hurts or the aches and pains of past abuse. We don’t see that these people we are disappointed in or saddened by because of their use of language are human. We forget that maybe we don’t know their story or the reason behind the swearing on Facebook.
And if we don’t see those things, the real things, the hurt behind it all, do we really know those people? Do people know that earlier in the day, just prior to my swearing on Facebook, that I spent more than an hour pouring my heart out to a therapist? Do people see that what I was attempting to portray by using that beautiful photo (it’s gorgeous) was not the potty language, but the inner strength and determination of the little girl? That I was trying to show the world that sometimes even competent, educated, strong willed women (like myself) are really little girls carrying around their teddy bears wishing they had the strength to cast off the pain and hurt and abuse in order to keep living? In order to keep moving in the direction of the kind of life only God had planned for them?
That picture with the swear word had been saved on my smart phone for weeks, months even. I had snapped it in private and held onto it, sometimes scrolling through my photos just to see the picture and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, someday I could be that little girl. Tough enough to walk away from all of my ugly past and still genuine enough to hold onto my teddy bear. Because even tough girls need a teddy bear.
For ages I wanted to post that picture on Facebook. Silly, isn’t it? I have a few hundred “friends” (some are much closer to me than others), but I was too afraid of what people would say. In fact, I had once during my time of inner debate about posting the picture, come across a picture with a swear word in it that a woman had posted. This woman is a Christian, a very sweet, kind lady. And I was envious because she had had the guts to post a silly photo with a swear word! (Now, I wonder if she got flack about it like I’ve gotten.)
When I finally got the courage to post the picture, I was a bit anxious what people would say. For the record, never be anxious about what someone will say about what you post on Facebook. They won’t keep it secret for long and you’ll know soon enough. I shouldn’t have worried though. Because I have a right to say what I want. I have a right to feel how I feel. I have a right.
In the end, twenty people “liked” my photo. A handful of people commented positively on the photo. A few of them really know me and I believe they understood the sentiment behind the photo. Two people shared the photo and one of them even made the photo his cover on his Facebook page.
So I swore on Facebook. Big deal. If that’s my biggest crime I commit in my lifetime, then I’ve done alright. If people don’t like it, they can unfollow me or unfriend me or whatever they want to do. Criticize me if you must, but I won’t apologize for how I feel or for where I’ve come from. Not anymore.
And I don’t expect anyone else to either. For those that were offended by the photo I put up, they have a right to their opinions and feelings. Go for it. I respect that. Because I know what it’s like to not be given the liberty to have an opinion and a feeling.
You know what’s really funny about all this? Once, several years ago, the church I went to (and where my husband pastored) did that whole thing where people wrote something about their past on one side of a piece of cardboard and then wrote something new, related to how Christ had changed their life, on the other side. The experiment was that people were supposed to stand up in front of the congregation, show the “pre-Christian” side of their sign and then turn it to the other “post-Christian” side. No words were spoken, just flipping the sign. (I can't recall what that experiment was called, but several churches were doing it for a while.)
There I was the preacher’s wife no less, and my pre-Christian side said: “Used to think sex equaled loved.” And the post-Christian side: “Now lives daily in the love of Christ.”
The funny part: no one ever said a word. No one asked me if I used to be a prostitute or demanded to know who I had been having all the sex with. Not one single word. No one asked me if I was okay or how I'd managed to survive / overcome whatever had caused me to think in that misguided way.
Come to think of it, it’s not all that funny when I think back on that sign and the response I got. Because what I could have used was a hug. A listening ear. Someone to tell me that it was going to be okay in the end. Someone to offer me the chance to get a lot of hurt and pain off my mind and heart.
I said a swear word on Facebook last week. I’m still a Christian. I still love God. And I know He still loves me.
What's been your experience with swearing and loving Jesus?