“… but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly posion. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth came blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10)
For Lent, I am trying to stop using profanity. As of today, twelve days of Lent have passed, and for twelve days I have failed to adhere to my promise. Almost every morning starts with some form of cursing: “*bleep* my alarm clock didn’t go off. I’m late for class again. Aww *bleep*…..… *bleep*.” All my roommates can attest: I’m not fond of mornings, even Sundays. I rather loudly and publicly express my distaste of the start of each day.
And then I proceed throughout the day. I go to class and I keep to myself. I listen to my iPod and skip to the beat (not really). But as I listen, I look around me and silently judge everyone: “What the *bleep* is going on with that guy’s hair? Who the *bleep* told you wearing that would be a good idea this morning?” I even use profanity to express my satisfaction: “*bleep* yeah! I caught the shuttle on time. Wow this is *bleeping* great!” No wonder my mornings start off so belligerently. My thoughts and vocabulary are riddled with profanity. It’s like my mind resorts to using profanity no matter what state I’m in – happy, sad, bitter, confused – because I’ve been doing it for so long.
But then I go to Sunday service. I go to Funday Mondays. I go to community group. I go to large group. I go to morning prayer. And in each of these settings, I sing praise (sometimes I even lead praise). In each of these settings, I lift a prayer for a brother or sister. Somehow, my tongue flips inside out and I utter encouragement rather than condemnation, blessings rather than profanity. “From the same mouth came blessing and cursing.”
But if I’m real with myself, it is not both blessing and cursing that exits my mouth. It’s just cursing cleverly disguised in holy terms and more cursing. For if the natural state of my heart – if the first thoughts that enters my mind each morning – if the silent musings throughout the day – are dominated by hateful thoughts and words, then it can’t be that I truly engage in a time of worship that is pleasing to God. My inability to stop cursing proves so.
To be clear, I’m not trying to say I’m not genuine when I worship and pray. It’s just that there is something fundamentally and morally wrong when I’m able (or think I’m able) to do both with such ease and a clear conscience.
But what can I do to finally stop? I’ve come to the realization that I can’t simply stop cursing. The absence and lack of cursing would consume my mind to such an extent that I inevitably just keep thinking about cursing and not cursing all day. Instead, I think the Good Book prompts me to look to the goodness of Christ to redeem the brokenness of my tongue and mind. In Colossians, Paul calls us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Colossians 3:16). The only way to remove the vocabulary of sin is to replace it with the vocabulary of Christ, of righteousness.
My new Lenten “sacrifice” is not to stop using profanity, but to find the beauty and goodness of Christ in every morning, person, and season, so that He may transform me into a new creation whose every thought and word can be offered up to the High King of Heaven as a form of worship and praise. And in doing so, I pray that the glory of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection would be the first and last thought that enters my mind and satisfies my soul each day.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer ~Psalm 19:14