What Learning To Swear Taught Me About God

Do you remember when sin entered into your story? Maybe it was the first time you really got in trouble with your parents? Maybe it was the first time you lied … and got caught? Maybe it was the first time you cheated on a test? Or the time you stole the oversized softball from the Knock the Bottles Down game at Santa Cruz beach boardwalk … anyone … just me? 
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time that I got in real trouble with my parents.

For me, it was in the Third Grade. I remember getting really mad at my mom for some outrageous thing she had said, something like, “Son, it’s time to do your homework” or “Will you come empty the dishwasher?” While I don’t recall my exact response, I do remember getting so upset that I yelled at her. And … in my blind third-grade rage … used a swear word. (This was new ground for me; I didn’t know which tense to use with which word and which ones were verbs and which were nouns.) I was just so mad and so embarrassed that I had to split. I grabbed a couple of granola bars and a Capri Sun and ran away.

I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to go or how far the nearest train tracks were for me to jump in a boxcar and make my way to Santa Fe. So I ran around the corner of our street to the property that was behind our house, where there was a huge umbrella tree that I knew I could hide out in. The umbrella tree gave me the perfect cover to elude the cops or search dogs or private investigators that my parents had no doubt hired by this point. So I sat there for the better part of fifteen minutes, stewing in my righteous indignation. I even said a few more swears to see how they would sound and to decide which ones I would need for my new life on the run. I ate a granola bar, finished the Capri Sun, and began to do some serious soul-searching. 
Was I really cut out for life on the road? 
Was I ready to live off the land and depend on the kindness of strangers? 
Was I wearing a coat or even a windbreaker in case it got cold? 
And why did I only grab granola bars and a Capri Sun?

In a moment of introspective realization and repentance, I came to my senses and decided to make the long journey home. I came through the front door like a long lost prodigal son finally returning home … after being gone for all of twenty minutes. 
But nothing. 
My mom was still making dinner. Not only had she not noticed my return, but she never knew I left! She simply asked me to apologize for how I spoke to her … and to come empty the dishwasher.

My little “swear journey” that afternoon was actually the beginning of a much bigger journey. A journey into all of the things in my life that would come between me and God. Little white lies, hidden habits, broken promises, broken hearts, cheap substitutes for unconditional love—you name it. Sin entered into my story and continues to come between me and God. 

And while the details are different … your story is just the same. Sin has entered into your story and continues to come between you and God. You cannot run away from it. It’s already here … and it’s already a part of who you are.

One of the most important steps you can take in your journey with God is to realize that sin isn’t simply some powerful force out there, but rather in here. That there will always be a part of you that tries to come between you and God. That I am not just drawn to sin, but often times, compelled by it.

This is the struggle that Paul speaks of in Romans 7:7–25 when he says that the desires to follow God and to forget God both occupy space in his heart. In other words, the struggle is real. But the good news is that new life and real growth are possible once you are willing to name it, face it, refuse to run away from it, and begin to invite God into it.

God knows where sin comes from … and He knows where it can take you. He is not surprised by my sin. Nor is He sick of me for how often I sin. He is in the house when I run out … and He is waiting for me under the umbrella tree. He is with me the whole time. And He’s waiting for me to come to my senses … or to come to the end of myself … and come home.  

So today … as an act of courage and confession can you name the places where you are running away from God? Can you come to terms with the fact that there is Sin in you … and that it comes out of you? And can you accept the grace and freedom that comes from a God that welcomes you home no matter what you’ve done or how long you’ve been gone?

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