Friday, April 6, 2012

Authentic cursing.

I believe cursing can be holy.

Yes, I just said that. Now before you begin to tar and feather me (and before I lose my volunteer "job" singing on Sunday mornings at church for speaking heresy), let me explain. In the spirit of full disclosure, I think there are two types of cursing. There is vulgar cursing and there is authentic cursing. The same words spoken two different ways can be offensive to me or inspiring to me. In fact, there are many words that would not be considered curse words that seem so vulgar to me in the context in which they are spoken that they are more offensive than the "worst" types of words (which, by the way, are arbitrary words that have been socially constructed to be "bad," but I digress...). So what I'm talking about here is the latter - authentic cursing. Just like so many things, the focus for me is on the heart of the person more than on the legalism of what they are saying or doing.

I understand that cursing is offensive to some people and not appropriate in all situations. I'm not arguing for it to be any different. In fact, I'm not arguing anything at all. I'm being honest about who I am and vulnerable about things I'd rather keep to myself and reveal only in "safe" situations. That's this whole Lent journey for me.

The first curse word I ever said was in a prayer. I was angry, although I hadn't realized it before. I felt like God didn't care what was going on in my life. I felt separated from him. So finally, one day, I told him. I cursed as I told him. And then I collapsed into tears and sobs and felt him press into me, almost as if he were physically holding me. I felt him. Right after I cursed at him. I didn't really understand this then.

I think I understand it better now, years later. We've all heard that the opposite of love isn't actually hate, but apathy. Anger actually requires you to remain engaged in some sort of relationship with the person at whom you're angry. Apathy allows you to walk away or remain distant and unattached. When I was dishonest with God and trying to shield him from my questions and my anger, I was actually disengaging from my relationship with him. When I was finally able to be honest and tell him how I was really feeling, I was moving back into relationship with him. I was trusting that he could contain my anger and my questions. I was trusting that he was bigger than me and could handle all that I can throw at him. Accusing him, lamenting, and throwing my questions upon him was truly trusting him. Keeping my questions hidden was out of fear that he would crumble beneath my anger or my questions. It was too small a picture of him.

I've said something pretty radical to a few of my friends and clients. I've said, "I think sometimes curse words can be more righteous than worship songs." Are you offended? Let me explain. Although you can remain offended if you wish. Again, I'm not arguing for anything here. I've sung worship songs before and not meant a word. I've sung them without feeling. Disengaged. False. I've sung them pretending that I am okay when I am not. I've sung them self-righteously and smugly. It is in these situations that I believe God requires our true selves, not our false selves. And if our true selves are angry and accusatory (like, perhaps, the author of Lamentations?), I believe that is who God wants.

My false self is incapable of being in a real relationship. My true self is fraught with imperfection. But it is honest. It is authentic. When I am my true self, ruptures in relationships will occur. But repair and redemption is not possible without rupture. And redemption is what this whole story of earth is about.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." ~ Hosea 6:1-6


Emily F said...

I love the wonderfully imperfect you, Rachel Elizabeth! :)

Rachel said...

Thanks dear friend.

Grayson said...

awesome post...truly honest