“Mom, did you say a swear word in Sunday School today?”
The question punched me in the throat from the back seat. We were traveling home from visiting family a couple of hours away. It had been a long day starting with early church, then Sunday School, then in the car and off to the home of my in-laws, and back again. I was exhausted, but the question woke me right up.
“Did you ask me if I swore in Sunday School today?”
“Yeah. Did you use the B word?”
I racked my brain for the lesson, the context. I sheepishly admit that it wouldn’t be out of the question for me to say a swear word in church. Our congregation is full of young and old, friends, acquaintances, and newcomers, and all are the realest real people you’ve ever met. I’ve said – and heard – all sorts of things under the roof of our church building. Swearing is not specifically prohibited, but a common law of decorum demands that curse words should probably not be uttered there. It’s plain common sense and normal respect for the sanctity of God’s house to not use curse words in church.
At once I remembered. Upon illustrating an example of how we treat each other, I had used the word in a made-up dialogue that teens might hear in the hallways at school, and offered it as an example of something they themselves might say in jest about someone or to each other without thinking.
And, yes. I was teaching Sunday School that morning. To said teens.
The very idea that my son heard it, made a note of it, recalled the incident, and then decided to bring it up to me hours later was a red flag. Probably other kids heard and noted my language. Probably there were even one or two in the room who haven’t ever heard a parent swear. Likely most of them hadn’t heard a teacher swear.
Venturing to say that none of them had heard a Sunday School teacher swear during Sunday School.
I confessed. “Yeah, I guess I did. I shouldn’t have,” and cringed. Hanging my head, I didn’t even look at my husband, who is has no patience with my use of colorful language. He’s not a swearer by nature, while I could hold an entire conversation using nothing but curse words. He keeps me in line; my children have heard alllll the bad words in my voice, not his.
Plus, I didn't need his admonition. The tsk tsk tsks were loud and clear in my head. But he knew he didn't need to say anything; he knows to keep quiet. Sometimes too much, but that’s another story.
I can’t help but feel as if the Bible is talking to me and just me sometimes.
Holding my tongue is a skill I've practiced hard. I’m one to talk then think, and this has caused me more than a little grief and guilt in life. Wisdom is a regular goal of mine, yet there are rarely any days that I don’t wince at the memory of something stupid I said off-the-cuff.
Wisdom can be elusive.
But it needn’t be. The word of God advises us how to hold our words and our tongues, and it is up to us to follow that advice. God speaks to us in many ways, and we can use his example in Christ of how to speak in love and righteousness. I need these lessons every day.
Even from the back seat of our car.
Dear God, forgive me when I use words that don't reflect your work in me. Thank you for your gentle reminders and for teaching me daily of my need to guard my tongue. I ask for your help in the moment, to give me pause before I speak. Thank you, Amen.