From the time I was in 3rd grade and onward, every summer was an exciting one. The first week in June was always 'Freed Camp', and starting when I was in high school, mid-July meant a week tent camping in North Carolina. The first time I went on the NC camping trip, boy was I in for a surprise! Firstly, I didn't like anything that we had to eat. Chili - no. Fettucini alfredo - no. Sub sandwiches - no. I thought that I was going to be miserable the entire time! Secondly, there were no showers in the outhouse. Thankfully Mr. Tim rigged up a MacGyver-like shower that would do for a week, but for someone who'd never 'roughed' it, like I said, I was in for so many surprises.
That week taught me a lot of things-- and more than to like fettucini alfredo (and that Tuna Helper tastes better than Chicken Helper in that respect) and sub sandwiches. Since the title of this post is 'defining moments', obviously there is one instance that has stuck with me ever since.
Mr. Tim was all about teaching us life lessons. Everyone there was required to participate in devotionals, help fix dinner, and even clean up afterwards. Every single person had to pull their weight on a trip like this if it was going to work. On one such occasion, I was helping Mr. Tim with KP (kitchen patrol). Mr. Tim, Jessie (my bff growing up) and I were talking and laughing and throwing soap suds at each other and having an all-around good time. And then, I said it. I said a phrase that I had said so many times before: oh my goodness.
The moment could have passed. Mr. Tim could have turned a deaf ear toward the innocent, childish phrase. But he didn't. In that moment, he went from joking and playing around, to serious. It wasn't an 'in your face' kind of serious, but instead he stopped and he asked me what that meant.
What do you mean what does that mean?! I'd never thought about it --and who hadn't heard that phrase to know what it means! And yet, Mr. Tim probed some more. He asked me if I thought it was disrespectful. Again, I'd never thought about it; after all, I was a young, immature high schooler who frequently said before she thought. The discussion continued and I came away from that situation thinking three things:
1: You need to think before you say things.
2: You don't need to take the Lord's name in vain.
3: You can take the Lord's name in vain without even saying His name.
How many times had I said the phrase? Countless times, I'm sure. How many times had I intentionally been meaning to say, "Oh my God"? Probably zero. How terrible did I think it was to say, "Oh my God"? Pretttty terrible. And yet, I'd been using a euphemism for His name multiple times throughout the day. What was worse is that I never thought about it: I never thought about God one single time when I uttered the phrase. After all, I wasn't saying Oh My God or even lessening it with Oh my Gosh. I was saying goodness! That was different, right?
It was in that moment that I decided that I needed to hold myself to a higher standard. If I was going to be pleasing to God, I needed to respect Him. I needed to show Him that I awed Him and revered Him, and that I didn't think His name was something flippant that I could use as an exclamatory thought, especially in light of Jesus saying we would be judged by our idle (fruitless) words (Matt. 12:36).
On that very day, I got a rubber band and placed it around my wrist, then popped myself every time I said it. After a few days, my arm was SORE! I couldn't believe how many times I thoughtlessly used God's name (or a euphemism) in conversation! And yet, after about a month, the phrase was completely removed from my vocabulary.
But obviously it still had lasting effects. To this day, I cannot hear the "Oh My God" phrase without shuddering. I am constantly aware of it, even when people try to substitute God's name with euphemisms/synonyms like "gosh", "goodness" or, "word". And every time I hear the phrase? I think about Mr. Tim. I think about him looking at me and asking me if I respected God. I think about him being saddened that I, a Christian, would use such a word/phrase so flippantly. And while I know that what people think doesn't matter, it was apparent to me on that day that he was just the human representation of what God must have been thinking every time I said it.
I am so thankful to have had Mr. Tim in my life. I could probably write a novel over all of the things that he taught me, and yet I cannot think of an instance that has affected me more than this one.
Today, think about the words that you say. Think about the ways that you proclaim who you are. Are your words confirming your Christianity, or causing others to question it? We will be judged by our words, so let's all use them wisely and respectfully.