I swear in traffic. When I’m driving, it’s like I joined the Navy and I’m a sailor with no vocal filter. I struggle with this for a few reasons. First, I’m pretty sure if my Christian friends knew I did that I would get hard-core judged. Second, I don’t like that I get so angry. Three, I feel better when I scream forbidden words to people who can’t hear me. It’s like an outlet I don’t want to give up. The struggle is real.
I even hesitate to write this because I desperately want you to like me and it’s possible that if you knew about my tendency to use colorful language, you might unsubscribe. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but if this conversation feels icky, do what you gotta do. Grace.
For a long time, I felt the need to hide this and other traits from my Christian friends. From the outside, women who love Jesus are pure of heart, soft-spoken, and tend to look uncomfortable around people slightly unholier than them. This is a dilemma for me, too, because if I’m honest, sometimes I think being super Christian like that looks boring as all get out. On the other hand, I love Jesus, too, so I should immediately dump the swearing like a good girl.
Time and again I have tried to be better about it and overall, I estimate I’ve cleaned up about 80% of my language. I still have a few favorites, though. It's about progress. For a long time, I felt guilty about using the occasional bad word, like it was something I needed to hide. God forbid anyone knows I follow Jesus and cuss a little. I don’t want to be responsible for someone quitting God because of me. Holy pressure, Batman.
Then something amazing happened.
I was at a party with some of my mom friends. I had been working in ministry as a women's pastor (yes, that's true), so they were gushing about how proud my mom would be of me. One particular gentleman at the table was visibly annoyed by their enthusiasm for religious accomplishments. He made a disgusted noise, crossed his arms and turned away. Take that, Jesus!
I felt a little panicky at the thought of him thinking I was too holy. I'm not like that! I realize this is in direct contradiction to what I said earlier about wanting to fit in because I love Jesus. What can I say, I’m complicated, but I may not have been thinking straight when I automatically addressed Mr. Crabby About Christians. (Warning: Colorful language imminent.)
“Don’t go thinking I’m too holy. If anyone thinks I’m too holy, I just drop a *bleep* *bleep* on their *bleep* and we’re good.”
I can almost hear the gasps as you re-read that. Listen, I never wanted you to know this story. If it were up to me, I’d let you keep thinking I spend my spare time polishing my halo, but I feel God pushing me to share this with you. Just stick with me a little longer, ok?
The man threw his head back and laughed loudly. (My mom's other friends suddenly looked like they smelled something terrible.) Later that night, as he was leaving the party, he gave me a huge bear hug that lifted me off the floor. Then he said something I will never forget, “That was the first time I thought God might be real.”
Now, I am not suggesting that my slang vocabulary brought this man to Jesus, but it opened my eyes to something I think I missed before. By loving Jesus and being entirely myself, even when I’m less-than-holy, I made our Lord and savior approachable to someone who wasn’t otherwise interested. I’ve heard God can use anything to accomplish his will, but if you are surprised about this one, I’m with you. Who knew?
You could argue this was one remarkable example, but I have countless stories since then of people who gave up on God because sometimes those of us who represent him have made him unattainable, unapproachable, and unwelcoming to anyone with a known flaw. I don’t think we do this on purpose but in our quest to become holy, we’ve managed to discount and edge out the unholy.
I’m not a bible scholar by any stretch, but when I read the story of Jesus, I see him spending a lot of time with some unholy people and not so much with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the day. It’s the kind of thing that makes me go, ‘Huh.’
If Jesus was drawn to the unholy people of his day and they to him, is that still true today? My money is on yes.
I believe that I am in the process of being sanctified (changed) by God and that I am on the road to being more and more like Jesus. For that, I am grateful and hopeful. I’ve got a long way to go, and I have setbacks, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I believe God showed me that I can love him and be myself and that he will even use my flaws for his glory. Halle-freakin-lujah!
I don’t know if my mom's friend ever found Jesus, but I know that day his heart softened a little. I’d like to think my fearless use of some questionable words cracked through the shell around his heart. Also, the situation helped me ease up on myself. I’m not as uptight as I used to be about presenting myself as all things holy and a bag of chips. In fact, I am in a season of embracing my unholier-than-thou life. It feels like obedience to me and God keeps using it in unexpected (and fun) ways. One things for sure, it's absolutely never boring.
I hope we are still friends after you've finished this, but I understand if not. No hard feelings. If, however, you have a little unholy in you and you love Jesus, stick around. We are your people.
I’d love to hear your Unholier Than Thou story! Please share it in the comments!