And this is why I believe.

images

Ten years ago, I was 19 years old and an ocean away from my family for the summer, experiencing a homesickness I’ve never known before or since. Especially at the start, this absence from my family and boyfriend was all-consuming.

In the midst of chasing around the girls for whom I nannied (the reason I was abroad), I’d sometimes sneak off for a moment to shed a few tears of despair, before putting on my big girl panties again and going back to work. Tears seemed to be always at the ready – a cup of water on the edge of a table, ready to tilt at any moment and spill homesickness and inadequacy everywhere.

My room was at the bottom of the large home, isolated from the rest of the family. I went there pretty much only to sleep. For a homesick person, night time, alone, in bed, is like the boss you have to fight at the end of the level in Mario Bros. It’s the big one and you don’t want to do it.

For three months I went to bed alone in a little room. Alone with my thoughts. Alone missing my family. Alone with nothing to do but lie in bed and cry.

Do you want to know how many times I cried in that room? Zero. Not once.

I’d seep out stray tears all day long, but when I stepped into that solitary space each night: Stillness. Quiet. Peace. I was met there by a strange, deep-breath, emotionless, calm; bestowed on me, I’m convinced, by God, through my prayers and the prayers of my family. It was weird. Backward, even; but It took me through every single night – deep sleep and all – straight to a brand new morning.

In the tumultuous journey my faith has taken since those ten years ago, my beliefs have ebbed and flowed in various directions. But those nights in Italy in my little room have been an anchor – holding me down to a deep trust in a God who sees His children when they are most vulnerable, and meets them in that place with an inexplicable serenity, the likes of which only He can provide.

Tonight, as I settled into bed, I blinked tear-brimmed eyes, cup teetering on the edge again, ready to spill out politics and melancholy and life and injustice and nothing at all.

I clicked on my Bible app. Today’s featured verse: “The Lord is near to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm‬ ‭145:18-19‬‬‬ I devoured the next three chapters as both the tear-blurred iPhone screen and the cloudy skies of my mind grew clear once again.

Stillness. Quiet. Peace. The ceiling fan whirrs above my head. The dog breathes in a hypnotic rhythm. “He hears their cry and saves them.” “He hears their cry and saves them!” And even when your cry isn’t audible or even visible, He still knows what echoes in your soul, and reaches out His hand to pull you up from the current.

Tonight, as He always has, He steps out across tumultuous waters, and calms the stormy seas of my heart. And this is why I believe.

Does God care if I say the F word? Thoughts on cussing, Barnum & Bailey and my Creator.

140_20100106_02343-Edit

I have an aunt named Juliet whose views on life, God and Christianity I greatly respect and look up to. She is a deep thinker, a sharer of her real, unedited thoughts, and has a humongous, empathetic heart. Recently, she posted a status stating how bewildered and saddened she was by a sudden influx of the use of the F word on Facebook, particularly by people of faith. It spawned some varied comments. Some of the commenters were proponents of the F word, stating it’s just vibrations of air after all, and some comments stated that people of faith have no business using it because we are the temple of God. What was most interesting to me about these comments, though, is that all of them were posted by people related to me. My own siblings and parents, as a matter of fact.

Capture f word

A few times I tapped the box to join the conversation. I tapped back out each time, realizing that a conversation about the F word isn’t really a conversation about the F word. A little comment wouldn’t be nearly enough. For I feel that word is simply an red herring which serves as just one indicator of a much larger and more important conversation.

So here’s my take on that big question: does God care if I say fuck?

I am a believer that the vast expanse of our universe had an origin, and that that origin was a creator. I believe He created cells and DNA, and the human mind and In N Out burgers as a result of that human mind. Now, I’ve never seen Him, but with this type of resume, I’m thinking He’s BIG. Like, indescribably complex and beyond anyone’s imagination.

Let’s take this image of a big, inexplainable creator and through this lens, look at the Church of the Nazarene Manual from the year 1908 written by Nazarene Church founder, Phineas F. Bresee, which I found on Google for purposes of this post:

From page 31: Church Membership and General Rules:

“It is required of all such who wish to unite with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, and thus to walk in fellowship with us, that they shall show evidence of their salvation from their sins by a Godly walk and vital piety, that they shall earnestly desire to be cleansed from all inbred sin, and that they will evidence this

First: By avoiding evil of every kind, such as:

(I’m mostly interested in sharing number 7, so I’m going to summarize 1-6 with just a few words, though they’re longer in the manual.)

1. Taking God’s name in vain

2. The Profaning of the Lord’s day (includes the example “Patronage of Sunday Newspapers”)

3. The use of intoxicating liquors

4. Quarreling, gossiping or slandering

5. Dishonesty

6. The indulgence of pride in dress (includes the scripture regarding braided hair, pearls and gold jewelry)

7. Such songs, literature and entertainments as are not to the glory of God; the avoidance of the theater, the ball room, the circus and like places; also lotteries and games of chance, looseness and impropriety of conduct.

HOLD, PLEASE. The circus??? The theater?? Games of chance?? I distinctly recall some epic nights spent at Barnum and Baileys with my family, devouring blue snow cones out of an elephant-shaped souvenir cup (does anyone remember those?) We loved going to our local Regal Cinemas, sneaking in our own snacks from the 99 Cent Store, because, as it turns out, we’re not millionaires, and couldn’t pay $11.00 for a popcorn. As a teenager, there were countless youth group nights at my very strict Christian church playing card games like Speed, Hearts, Din-Linh and BS (which we called Bologna – haha) ALL of which were games of chance, being played INSIDE a church building. Yet, according to the Nazarenes of 1908, I’d be excommunicated from the church.

“But those things were all done innocently, Miriam! With no malice or sin in your hearts! God wouldn’t judge you for watching the elephants at the circus!” According to Phineas Bresee and the Nazarene church, He sure would. I read the manual carefully, and nowhere did it concede, “As long as your heart is in the right place while dancing, it’s okay”. The manual simply states the rules, then the consequences, and that’s it. We can look back on this, however, and recognize that these activities CAN be done innocently, because it all depends on the condition of one’s heart. If a man is going to a theater to watch a porn flick while his family is at home eating dinner, well, he’s in a different category than the family who goes together to watch Madagascar II, wouldn’t you agree? Therefore, when a man shouts “FUCK YOU!” out his car window at another driver, wouldn’t we (and also God) place this person in a different category as the girl with her friends, who, when told she has spinach in her teeth jokingly replies, “I don’t give two fucks. Leave me alone you guys!!”

Is it possible, then, that God’s omnipotent view of His children may be different than the “squeaky clean” image the church has tried so desperately for centuries to tout? Is a word (or a theater, or circus or dance hall) really THAT divisive?

Notice that the Nazarene manual’s list of “no-nos” began with the word “First”. That means there is a “second”. Let’s find out what that is. Remember, this first and second to which I’m referring are introducing lists of rules to follow in order to be a member of the Church of the Nazarene Club.

Again, I’m going to shorten the entries to get to number 6, which I find poignant.

“Secondly, by doing that which is enjoined in the Word of God, which is both our duty of faith and of practice, such as:

  1. Being courteous to all men.
  2. Contributing to the support of the church.
  3. Being helpful to those who are in the household of faith
  4. Loving God with all the heart, mind and strength.
  5. A faithful attendance on all the ordinances of God.
  6. Seeking to do good to the bodies and souls of men; feeding the hungry, the naked; visiting the sick and imprisoned, and ministering to the needy, as opportunity and ability are given.
  7. Telling the unsaved the claims of the Gospel.”

So, let me be sure I understand. After the list of forbidden behaviors like reading the Sunday Paper that make you “look less Christian”, after being courteous, after giving your support to the church, after helping those IN the church, after loving God, after following ordinances, THEN, we feed the hungry and visit the sick.

The priorities of the 1908 church were laid out clearly here, and they speak volumes. First look, act and sound Christian, THEN go do Christian things. Yikes.

Going back to Satan’s playground, aka the movie theater, why do you think this “rule” has changed for Christians? Why was it once shameful, and now entire groups of Christians go together for entertainment?

I am not asking these questions ready to shoot answers at you. I’m asking them because I have no idea how to answer them. Why did dancing remain forbidden for centuries, yet I gathered with my entire Christian family at my brother’s wedding to dance to *gasp!* Top 40 hits? (Don’t tell anyone, but we all had a marvelous time and have yet to be smitten by a bolt of lightning). Why is reading your Sunday paper before Church today not quite a big deal like it was in 1908?

I feel that whether we like to admit it or not, the church floats on the current of culture just as the rest of the world does. I’ve written out the word “fuck” a few times in this post. If it offends you, I am sorry. Does it offend you equally if I say “crap”, “blazes” or “bloody”? In 1908, these were all very offensive words, but some have become less so now and are used more readily by all manner of polite inidividuals. Why? Is God now more in favor of the word “crap” than before? Or has culture simply moved the word along in matters of acceptance?

Or is the church not meant to flow with culture? Are we all going to hell together for wearing our pearls and watching Finding Nemo in the theaters and dancing the Cha Cha Slide??? If so, I really want to know!!!

In all His bigness, I want desperately to believe that my God can look at two people both saying “fuck” simultaneously and that He is omnipotent enough to judge them not on the word uttered, but on their hearts and motives for doing so.

I hope and pray that when I die and stand in front of God, that I’m not meeting a creator who is going to run down a list of the potty mouth words I said, or inappropriate clothes I wore, or the movies I watched at the theater. Instead, I hope to be face to face with a creator who knows my heart intimately; who knows my DNA personally because he knit it himself with his giant, cosmic knitting needles. I want him to say, “You’re so messed up, Mir, but I’m glad you clung to me and tried to love people. You found a way to have faith in a world that tried everything to strip you of it. You must be weary. Let’s spend some time together now.”

My God is a refuge. A resting place. If I am made in His image, my job is to be a resting place for others, in whatever form that takes. With all due respect to Phineas F. Bresee, founder of the Church of the Nazarene, when interacting with the world, I want to skip the list of “no-nos” and jump straight to Step 6 of being a refuge and hospital for badly broken people of this world. That’s where I feel God truly lives. Not in the “image” of a Christian, but in his scars and battle wounds.

I’ll end with a quote from a man I greatly admire – Mr. Tony Campolo. He spoke at my college campus several times while I was a student there, and my husband, Eric, reminded me of something profound he once said.  “I have three things I’d like to say today,” He said. “First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Mom, Dad, Aunt Juliet, Monty, Beth, and everyone else – I’m sorry for the many destinations this post traveled as I clumsily sort through life’s big questions in front of you. I found the original post thought-provoking and worth responding thoughtfully to. So worth it, in fact, that the clock reads 2:31am as my thumbs tap out these words into the glow of my phone against a dark house.

Writing can sometimes be a preferred form of communication for me because I can choose my words carefully, and also because I can hide behind the security of my computer, but I want you, reader, to hear this loud and clear: I WANT TO POUR LARGE MUGS OF EARL GREY TEA AND TALK WITH YOU ABOUT THESE THINGS IN PERSON. I crave it, actually. I want to learn from you and embrace our differences and talk and laugh in spite of them. Let’s not ever allow mere differences of opinion to stifle our closeness. If God really did create the human mind that spawned the double double with extra spread, He can handle a heavy conversation about the word fuck between close family and friends.

I love you.

– Mir

Blog Stats

  • 45,066 fanciful followers

Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.