Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It's Ash Wednesday! Yipee!

Well, today my resolution takes effect. I will give up cussing 'til the end of Lent. Of course my real hope is that after forty days of making a conscious effort to stamp out that bad habit, it won't be a habit anymore.

Does that mean I'll never cuss again? Not only do I think that goal is -- in our potty-mouthed society -- probably unattainable, but I don't even regard it as necessary. Cussing can be quite effective, when done sparingly and saved for special occasions. I know very ladylike women who hardly ever let a blue word pass their lips -- except when they were very, extraordinarily angry -- and then they let it rip. This accomplished what cussing, for far too many people, doesn't: it let people know that these good ladies meant business and weren't taking any mess.

Most people who try to intimidate others with their cussing just come across as dunces. The impression they leave is that they're just plain stupid, and probably moral low-lifes, as well. Whenever I hear a young woman utter expletives at somebody else, I always think, "she's trash, her parents are probably trash, any guy (or girl) she gets is going to be trash, her kids are going to be trash and her whole life will be lived in trash." It may not be very fair, but I can't pretend I think anything else.

A separate problem for me is that I have a temper that kicks butt and takes names. It's pretty much a family trait. My dad didn't take crap from anybody, my older sister doesn't take crap from anybody and neither do I. And I, most especially, find this temper frequently an asset. A woman -- and a lesbian -- and especially a CHRISTIAN lesbian -- would pretty much be designated, in life, to be a doormat for everybody unless she stood up and refused the role.

Is it wrong for a Christian to have a temper? According to his portrayal in the Gospels, Jesus was about as ill-tempered as anybody in Scripture. There was somebody who REALLY stood up and kicked butt and took names. His anger was never petty or vindictive (He commanded forgiveness and "turning the other cheek"), but He was nobody's milquetoast. Nor does the New Testament portray the apostles as having been wimps.

Christians, as a matter of fact, CANNOT be wimps. We can't afford to be. There are too many forces that would step on us and trample us down. The key, for us, is to recognize the difference between anger on our own behalf (which is selfish and egotistical) and righteous anger (which is on behalf of God). Our anger must exist not merely for the sake of ourselves, but for the good of others and so that right may vanquish wrong.

These are some of the issues I intend to explore in my meditations this Lent. I have always loved Ash Wednesday, and Lent in general. Some of my most important spurts of spiritual growth -- at least the few that have been in any way self-directed -- have taken place during this season. All growth, however, comes ultimately thanks to God.

God has called me to one of the most-embattled ministries to which "He" possibly could have called anybody. Me -- with my tempestuous temper! Some might say this is proof that God has a sense of humor. But God knows what "He" is doing. One of the true signs of a genuinely God-called ministry is that it calls upon us to grow, just as much as it calls upon us to encourage growth in others.

God regarded it as no obstacle that Moses was halt of speech, that Sarah was barren or that Peter was so impetuous that he denied his Lord three times. And God will use me -- me! -- if I will but let "Him."

It is all to God's glory, not ours. And besides that, it just makes life so much more interesting.


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