Friday, January 6, 2012

You kiss your babies with that mouth?

So, I've been thinking a lot about this word of mine that I chose for this year.


There's more I want to be. And I want that to start with being myself here, in my writing.

art quote print bob dylan blue birds  - DYLAN
image credit

I haven't been dishonest, or misrepresented myself. But, there have been a few posts I've done over the past year that I've been---well, I've been scolded about---through comments or by people I know in real life. And, this oldest child, people pleaser, pretending-that-it-doesn't-matter-but-secretly-caring- a-lot-what-other-people-think-even-though-I-hate-admitting-that-to-you-right-now doesn't like to be in trouble, and I don't like to disappoint.

So, I've found myself tempering my writing.

I don't like that. That isn't being me.

I've found myself not always saying the thing I'd say to you if I was sitting across the table from you at a coffee shop.

Probably the clearest example of this would be cussing.

I don't hold a candle to truckers or sailors, but I do cuss sometimes. Mostly, it's for emphasis.

You see--we've taken words like epic or awesome, which used to be reserved for truly extraordinary, awe-striking things like space travel and The Grand Canyon, and we've made those words arbitrary. We use them for things that we won't remember a week from now like the "epic-fail" of wearing your shirt inside out all day, or the "awesome" flavor of toothpaste the dentist used to clean your teeth. Cussing is sort of my epics and awesomes. And--it just cuts to the point.

But, even if the whole epic-awesome-arbitaryness wasn't true, I'd probably still cuss.

Now, maybe you're running to your Bible to find me a verse to tell me why I shouldn't say this. Maybe cussing is offensive to you. Here's something else: sometimes, when I talk to Jesus, I cuss too.

I'm not being irreverent. Being reverent has nothing to do with words, and everything to do with attitude. I only need take one look at our beautiful girls to be brought to my knees in awe that he could make that.

I cuss when I talk to Jesus, because he wants a relationship with me. He wants to be just like a friend sitting across the table sipping coffee. Talking to him is no different than talking to those friends. He doesn't want me to pause to use words like "thee" and "thy", because I don't use those when I talk to my friends, or ever, really. He just wants me to be real--even if it includes the occasional curse word.

So, for example: I watched Brynne tumble down our basement steps on Wednesday----top to bottom----her neck bending in ways that took my breath away. I don't think I could tell you the sheer terror that swept through my body as I watched her fall, unless I told you that this scared the HELL out of me. And this was my prayer in that moment, as she's falling:
Brynne! Shit, Jesus, help!
And our Brynne. I collect her in my arms. She utters one word:

And then, she with her rubber neck, runs off to play. While I'm sobbing and shaking, continuing to say lots of shits and thank yous to Jesus.*

You know what though? I think Jesus loves that. I think he wants that. He wants to come into my mess; to be included. He doesn't want me to wait till designated prayer times, or a moment when I can clean up my language, to be included. Real relationship isn't designated or contrived like that. It happens all the time, and that's what Jesus wants, I think. Even if it includes cussing. I know I certainly needed help as Brynne toppled down our stairs. I couldn't wait for an appropriated, curse-free time to ask.

And really, if your kid was falling down these stairs, you'd probably say shit too. I'm 93% sure you would.

So, this is me. A Jesus-loving, mama of twins, who uses the occasional four letter word, with a husband who gives me complete grace, even when I let our kid fall down the stairs.

I've told more than one person, I like you more, once I've heard/read them cuss. I mean it too. I like people who cuss. There's something about it that's real; genuine. I like people like that. Maybe this post will have you like me more. Or maybe you'll decide you don't like me at all. Maybe I won't be your flava. But, here I am. I want to be all here, when I write. This is me. I hope you like me both inspite of, and because of. Either way---here I be.

image credit

*I don't make a habit of swearing in front of our girls. The whole falling down the stairs thing--desperate circumstances.


Shell said...

I LOVE WHO YOU BE! Four letter words and all!

Angie said...

Thank you for this. Somehow it was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. And yes I have also watched my kids falling down stairs and I understand the complete terror and cuss words that come out.

Lauren said...

I like you more.

Jerry Koerkenmeier said...


Perhaps you will moderate this comment, as I am one who has attempted to gently correct (scold?) you in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:25 when I was your elder. But I'd like to comment for the sake of those who read your post and may be confused. First, let me say that I like you as you are - not any more or less for knowing that you cuss. You are right, of course, that God does not desire hypocrisy or insincerity. We ought not relate to God like Pharisees, pretending to be something other than what we are. We must not honor God with our lips while our hearts are far from him.

But you see, while cursing is wrong, what is far more dangerous is believing that God approves of it. You see, your post confuses authenticity with goodness. Therein lies the problem: as sinful/fallen people our authentic behavior is often not good. The question isn't whether or not we do in fact curse (we do - Romans 3:14). It's whether or not we should (we shouldn't - Ephesians 4:29). Yes, we often curse in anger or fear or pain. Perhaps we even curse to God. But we ought not - we ought to repent of our cursing and know the grace of God is sufficient to not merely forgive us our sin, but also to change (sanctify) us and deliver us from the temptation and power of sin. We proclaim and revel in God's grace, but we mustn't turn grace into license for immorality (Jude 4).

Forgive me for running to my Bible, but notice that the apostle James both admits that we curse, and exhorts us to forsake it. It isn't that it offends me - it offends God!

James 3:10-12 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

The Bible is clear that perverse language is indeed sinful, and it appears you know it, since you are reluctant to habitually swear in front of your girls. If you think God approves of cursing, winks at it, or even has mixed feelings about it, just read passages like Psalm 109:17, Proverbs 10:31, James 1:26, Luke 6:45, Titus 2:8, Colossians 3:7-8.

By all means, let's be authentic and genuine: let's admit our use of cursing and foul language. But then let us next confess it to God in repentance, seeking and trusting His grace to help us abandon it that we might be like Him. Let's not pretend Jesus wants us to sin so we can be genuine.

Matthew 12:36–37 "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, or by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Your brother in Christ,

Jerry Koerkenmeier

championm2000 said...

I must say, I like this Julia quite a lot!

(along with the other Julias I have come to know and love through reading your blog)!

Anonymous said...

Your F*C*ING awesome!

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

Oh, I love you Julia, now and always! :)

I have to laugh about cussing making a statement, too. I remember being in a meeting with my boss one time, and he dropped the F-bomb (SO uncharacteristic), directed at another SVP. I was scared $#!tless! Hahaha!

I worked as a waitress on and off during high school and college, and I picked up a bit of a potty-mouth. While I still let one fly from time to time with friends, I don't do it at all...even when a juicy raw hen explodes in my It wasn't really a concerted effort, exactly, but I somehow haven't slipped up since the girls were teeny-tiny.

Since I'm no longer a potty-mouth, though, my friends get a kick out of me inserting a word here or there. My girlfriend and I were talking about how we'd seen each other several times over the past month, but we haven't had any real sit-down time. The best characterization for that, I thought, was to say, "We just need to shoot some $#!t. I miss you!" Cue laughter. ;)

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

And P.S.

I love that you speak often to making religion a part of who we are, every day, in every context. You're so right, that we don't need to wait until a certain time of day, or assume a certain position for prayer, or speak in a certain tone to be connected to God.

Julia said...

Hi Jerry,

I'm glad you took the time to respond. I wouldn't delete your comment, it's part of the conversation, it's respectfully done. So, let's talk.

I'll start off by saying I'm no great theologian. You could theologize circles around me.

I DID, however, do a bit of reading on this, before I wrote it.

Specifically, Eph 4:29. The text says "corrupting talk" (ESV) and refers to words that do not give grace--words that kill or are rotten (the Greek translation). I think that "shit" and words that kill can be mutually exclusive--right? Just because I say shit doesn't mean that I'm using corrupting speech. It could, in fact be used to give grace, and build someone up, given the context, couldn't it?

The thing about the Eph. text is that people read that, and they think it means--"don't swear". But to really look at it---gossip, slander---those are truly rotten--those are words that do damamge, hurt and kill. I'm not sure saying "shit" applies.

Cursing people is absolutely wrong, and cursing people using the Lord's name in vain---even more so. My use of "shit", or "hell", for that matter, was not used to curse anyone, which was what your James (3:10-12) verse referenes. Cursing people, and using curse words are two different things. One could "curse" a person without ever using a "curse" word.

Again, the text in Matthew refers to cursing others, slandering them, attacking God (blaspheme). That is wrong, and that most definitely offends God---no question. I don't see how I was doing that here.

As Christians, I think we have to be so careful, Jerry. We espouse the importance of "being good" and following the rules (no swearing, no drunkeness, etc.), but then we do ugly things, we fail to give grace (without breaking any of the aforementioned rules on the surface) and people look at Christianity, and say if that's what your God is all about, "Peace out, Jesus, because I can be a 'good' person without all that bull shit."

And they are right---there are people who are not Christians that are far more "good" than I am.

So, then why would they wanna love Jesus? What's in it for them? Rescue. Perfect love. Relationship. A reason to give grace to others, even more than before---in response to a Rescuer who gave everything. Not following rules, not working for love and salvation, just responding (and resting) in grace.

I don't think our Rescuer is offended if I let out the occasional "shit". (As long as I'm not using it to curse another person). Is it foul? Yeah. Does it make some people cringe and old ladies turn up their noses in disgust? Yup. Is it something I want my girls to say before they understand what and why they're saying it? Of course not. But is it a sin? I really don't think so.

Make no mistake, if I believe something to be wrong, it's a sin if I continue to do it. I fail to see the sin here, since I was not cursing anyone.

I believe God wants us to love each other well, I think he's concerned about the way to respresent him with our hearts and our actions---our words too, but I think he's concerned about the spirit of the words, rather than the diction. I fear that getting so bent up on trying to "be good" we miss grace. And we miss giving grace to others.

Jerry Koerkenmeier said...


Your response deals with two issues. The first is exegetical, having to do with the understanding of the verses I cited and the applicability to certain kinds of words or language. It has to do with whether or not "cussing" / foul language is sin. The second is theological, having to do with the relationship of justification, sanctification, and the role of God's law. I'd like to answer them separately and in that order.

First, regarding the verses and the words under discussion. Your post referred to "cussing" and "four letter words". I didn't understand you to being limited to only the words you included in the post - I took them as merely examples.

First, "Hell" is not inherently a dirty word.It describes a real place, and also serves as a symbol for lots of "bad things." I don't necessarily object to that - though I think we can trivialize Hell by overusing the word. Now, it can be used in a curse, such as the horrifying curse, "go to hell." But that's different. It's a very real curse. But I digress - the question of which words are and are not appropriate could quickly get bogged down in minutiae. Plus, there is risk in quarreling about words, "which does no good, but only ruins the hearers." (2 Tim. 2:14).

James 3:10 is indeed referring to cursing - a malediction. I never claimed the words used in your post cursed anyone. But you were defending "cussing." Maybe I don't know how you are defining the word. But it is defined as "cursing," "swearing," or "profanity." Each of those is specifically opposed in the Word of God. I included a sampling of verses referring to those kinds of categories. Cursing others, swearing, and using profane words are clearly not things Jesus commends.

So, Ephesians 4:29 refers to "corrupting talk." But that doesn't mean the words are limited to those that kill. You are right that it means words that are "rotten" or "worthless." The definition of the word there is something like "bad," "of no value," "unwholesome." Rotten, worthless, unwholesome, and bad things are by definition "not good." Therefore, such language is not good for the speaker or the hearer. In fact, we could summarize it as "foul language". You said of your own words, "Is it foul? Yeah." And then you deny that God has a problem with it? Aren't "foul" and "wholesome" antonyms? But it isn't as though these are the only verses dealing with the tongue, language, mouths, speech, etc.

I trust you don't really need to be convinced that cussing is unwholesome talk, and not useful for building others up and benefitting those who listen. If you thought it was, you wouldn't avoid such words around your children, and you wouldn't have any problem if they spoke that way. 

You said, "I believe God wants us to love each other well, I think he's concerned about the way to represent him with our hearts and our actions---our words too, but I think he's concerned about the spirit of the words, rather than the diction." You contrast and divide diction from spirit, word from heart, but Jesus doesn't:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Again, it's not me but Jesus who says (in Matthew 12:36–37) "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, or by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." 

Jerry Koerkenmeier said...

As to the second half of your response, I think you missed my point. I was speaking to you as a sister in Christ, correcting what I saw as an approval of that which God does not approve. In essence, you said that Jesus approves of your cussing, and I was saying that He does not approve of it but opposes it.

We both agree that Christians are sinners. Let's admit it: we all have cussed and continue to cuss on occasion. I take no issue with this. I take issue when you say "it's okay." It isn't okay. It's not okay to call “good” what God calls “evil”. Your argument was something like: Cussing is something I do. Jesus wants me to be authentic and do what I do. Therefore, Jesus approves of my cussing. But that is not a valid argument. It isn't true. Jesus loves you in spite of your sin. In fact, He loves you enough to command that you not sin. He has also died so that you may be forgiven for all your sins, past, present, and future. But that doesn't mean he's "okay with it." This is the whole point of Romans 6 and several other passages of the New Testament. It was the point of my response. Grace is not to be construed as a license to sin or as approval of sin. Of course He doesn't want you to pretend to be something or someone you are not - He doesn't want you to pretend you don't cuss. But He does want you to repent and try to stop. That was my point.

You are misreading me if you read me as arguing that not cussing will make us holy and acceptable to God. I did not say that being a good person makes one a Christian. But read 1 John. No true Christian is content with their sin. Instead, they strive to love God, to love as God loves, and to be holy as He is holy. 

1 John 2:3-6  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 5:2-3  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Jesus teaches this very thing:

Luke 6:46 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?"

Matthew 5:17-19  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

None of this is possible apart from grace. But grace cleans and heals. It does not leave us in our sin and brokenness. Again, it's one thing to admit we do sin, and another to suggest that God's okay with it. 

Jerry Koerkenmeier said...

I think some of your statements are confused. How can we do ugly things without breaking the rules on the surface? How can we fail to give grace without breaking the rules? The law is love. It teaches the redeemed heart how to love God and others. Is not the law summed up in these two commandments? 

If you think calling Christians to holy living is dangerous then you aren't getting the message of the Bible. (Please note, I did not call an unbeliever to obey God's law, but a sister in Christ). You can't read the Bible and come away with the idea that everything ends with the rescue. In one sense, that's where it begins. The New Testament of God's grace is chock full of rules, of imperatives. It's easy for us to confuse law with legalism, but they are completely different. Trying to be saved by the law is not only unwise, it's not possible. We are sinful - the law has condemned us. But part of the rescue has to do with putting us into a right relationship with God and His Law. One of the key features of the gracious, God-designed, God-provided salvation is that it is intended to enable God's people to obey Him once again!  

Ezekiel 36:25-27  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Ezekiel 11:19-20  And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Yes, we still do ugly things, but in disobedience to the Law. And we admit that! And we confess it! And we are forgiven! But we don't minimize God's law or pretend it doesn't exist. Our God has commandments, does He not? You say that if we espouse them, and then fail to keep them perfectly, then people might "look at Christianity, and say if that's what your God is all about, ‘Peace out, Jesus, because I can be a 'good' person without all that bull shit.’  What "BS" are you referring to? The commands of God to be holy? So we like God's command to "love others well," to "give grace," but not the ones about drunkenness or swearing? What gives us the right to pick and choose which commands are important? Are we above God?

"So, then why would they wanna love Jesus? What's in it for them? Rescue. Perfect love. Relationship. A reason to give grace to others, even more than before---in response to a Rescuer who gave everything. Not following rules, not working for love and salvation, just responding (and resting) in grace." Right - rescue from the terror of God's wrath, forgiveness for their sins, freedom from their slavery to sin and Satan, love, etc. We don't work for love or salvation. But we do work, Julia - we don't merely rest. That's what responding to God's grace looks like:

Philippians 2:12–13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

To deny this is to deny the Gospel. We must not remove the commands from the Bible. We must understand that only the Gospel of God - only the Holy Spirit working in us can enable us to fulfill these commands. We must be clear that we can't do them to earn God's favor. But we cannot ignore them or minimize them either.

Jerry Koerkenmeier said...


As I was reflecting upon our discussions, a passage came into my head which I wanted to share. I think it captures much of what I was trying to convey, albeit with much more eloquence and authority.

Titus 2:11–15 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Let's read it very carefully and soak it in. Notice how clearly and beautifully Paul connects the Gospel with both salvation (rescue) and obedience. He says that God's magnificent grace, far from being a reason to consider sin lightly, teaches us to live holy lives in obedience to God's commandments! Praise the Lord for His marvelous Grace!

Corinne Ritz said...

Love you Julia! I really loved this post, it was very real, and it made me laugh. Thanks for sharing yourself - makes me miss you loads and loads.

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David Wheeler said...

Hey, Julia.

Ever since mom pointed me to your post the other day I've been dying respond. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way you became a really GOOD writer. I'm impressed and proud.

So here is my $.02 about this discussion… I think the Bible exposes an earthiness to its religion (transparency) that the modern "church" does not often share. In fact, I think it often shudders at the thought of it - when it thinks about it - if it ever does - not often enough.

I need to find a better "short-hand" term to describe that entity… "traditional", "fundamental", etc.; I don't know… brittle christianity. I'm sure I'll offend someone… But none of us are immune from its trappings; certainly not me. Yet, I deplore it when I see it in myself.

Look at Naomi: When Naomi and Ruth trekked back to Bethlehem from Moab; and, of course, the town was alive with the news; Naomi's response to the women of the village becomes the whole point of the Book of Ruth! (In fact, it becomes the driver of the narrative; but that's beyond this post.)

Naomi says to the women:

"Don't call me "Sweet-One" (Naomi).
Call me "Bitter-One" (Mara).
For "Shaddai" (The Almighty) has made me bitter indeed.
I was full when I went away;
but empty YHWH has brought me back.
Why call me "Sweet-One"?
For YHWH has testified against me
And Shaddai has pronounced evil sentence on me"

Who talks like that? We are far to theologically sophisticated so speak this way. One could also bring up Habakkuk or Jonah or on and on. Sometimes we are so careful to buffer the "edges" of God and/or our disappointments and joys that life becomes very thin, boring and artificial . We do well to peek through the veil every now and again.

We serve a God who formed man out of dirt and was thrilled to make us in his image; and he's the God who ordered the slaughter of his enemies, and, yet, wept at his friends tomb and wept over Jerusalem. He will not fit in a box.

I'm envious for the Acts experience of church when God added 3000 in one day. Just imagine the "nightmare" that would be for the church trying maintain status quo. Talk about herding cats! May God give us those cats.