When my children were small they were outside with my husband who was working in the garden. After setting the food I had prepared for lunch on the table, I opened the door and hollered to let them all know lunch was ready. I then turned around and grabbed the pitcher of ice tea and set it on the table, somehow setting it on the edge of the table. It was like a slow-motion video. I saw it go over and as it hit the floor the pitcher shattered and ice tea spattered up the wall and all over the newly mopped floor. "Oh crap!" slipped from my mouth just as my young sons got to the screen door. One of them quickly turned to their daddy and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Daddy, Mommy just cussed!" Technically I didn't believe I used curse words--slang yes, and maybe even a bit vulgar. When I said that to my husband, he laughed and pointed out two possible reasons the kids thought I cussed. First, it wasn't a word we allowed them to use so they assumed I was cussing if I used a forbidden word. Second, the emotional and impulsive way I spoke the word made it feel like a curse word to the kids.
Ironically, I had grown up in a family where some of grownups cursed when they got angry and some simply cursed in social settings as they told stories. When I became a believer, I tried really hard not to curse. And, as a teen, I even became a somewhat obnoxious, self-appointed chief of the speech police force for our family.
In college, I had a Christian English major as a roommate who was both intelligent and quick witted. I asked her one time if she ever cursed because I had never heard her do so. She said she didn't curse since she believed most people cursed because they had a limited vocabulary. And believe me, she could express herself and her emotions quite well without ever using a curse word. She could even verbalize something deep and significant in a humorous way that would make me smile, only to realize later how important what she had said was. I also had another dear friend who, in the eight years I was around her, never once cursed in front of me. I didn't realize it until one day we were in the middle of doing something and something happened that would have made cursing a real temptation for anyone, but all she said was, "Oh, my soul!" And it didn't even sound like a curse word, just a calm acceptance of a problem we would have to work through to proceed. I loved that one chose to educate herself with a vocabulary to give herself the ability to fully communicate the emotions that were aroused in difficult situations, and the other communicated a humble acceptance of circumstances that were less that favorable, frustrating, or infuriating to us humans. For the most part, I tried to emulate the speech of these ladies and many other godly women I knew.
A few years ago, I decided to work through past trauma and in that work I found a host of emotions including rage with in me that I didn't know existed. And along with those emotions, curse words I had heard early on, but never thought I would say again, rose to the surface. For a couple of years those words showed up a lot in my journal, which was written in the format of letters to God. I was a bit uncomfortable doing that, until one day I watched my young grandson ask his mom to give him back an object she had taken away from him. Because He was around 18 months old, he had a limited vocabulary and he kept reaching out with his hands indicating he wanted it. She shook her head no and then he began to throw a little fit without any tears. She told him no again and then he began to cry great big crocodile tears. When she still said no, he began to desperately point to the tears as if they could indicate to her how much he wanted the object she had taken from him. In seeing him, I realized that because I had a hard time getting to my tears, I had been using curse words to try to convey to God how angry and how hurt I was.
Then, one day I was discussing something painful with my counselor. She asked me if I had journaled about it. I told her that I had tried to journal several times, but I couldn't find words to express the depths of hurt and anger I was experiencing and I had just cried an ugly cry--you know the cry where shoulders shake, and groans surface, and snot runs as fast as the tears. I told her that in my mind all I could do was picture myself standing on a tall mountain, screaming in anguish, wanting to be sure God could hear and see me and know the pain I felt. She took me to another counselor's office and showed me a beautiful picture of a lady sitting on a garden bench crying and catching her tears in a vile. The artist had painted it to depict Psalm 56:8, "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" To know that God saw my tears and cares was a soothing balm to my pained soul.
I had gone from living numb, to getting angry about the ugly, hurtful things I had experienced, to acknowledging the deep pain and the grief caused by what had occurred and, believe me, that grief ran deep. During that time of facing the past wounds and laying them at the cross, Romans 8:26 took on new meaning to me, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." When I couldn't find the words to express the anguish I experienced the Spirit could intercede for me. How awesome is that?
I hope that every person who faces deep pain, loss, and confusion find the truth of these verses. God hears the pain and the anger we experience and express through words. And, when there are not words strong enough to express the level of pain in our hearts, He sees the tears and hears the groans of our hearts and the Spirit's prayers being poured out on our behalf.
Sometimes in our culture we want to play down the emotions people have, but I believe God is every bit as concerned about our hearts and the emotions we are experiencing as He is about the thoughts we are thinking and the words we are speaking. The cries of the cross are proof of that. I believe our God is big enough to handle the emotions we feel and loving enough to help us manage them with His truth. Maybe that is why Paul wrote, "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
I am at a different place in my life and still striving to use godly speech, trusting that if I can't find a word powerful enough to convey my fear, sorrow, grief, or anger, that I can trust that God sees how deep those things run in me. And, at the times I feel alone and desperate to be heard, I can still draw on that mountaintop dream in which I cry out to Him with my heart and let the Spirit intercede for me. He knows my heart and He knows what I need even more than I do. I don't want my grandkids to think of me as a potty mouth grandma, I want them to remember me as a "Jam" who spoke words that blessed and drew their hearts toward God in every situation.