To the earliest days of my memory, I remember my mother telling me never to swear. And with one or two exceptions in 33 34 years, I haven’t.
But I have often thought about the impact of swearing and whether there was ever a just occasion for strong language. Mom, I found it.
My wife works at a children’s hospital, and in the not-too-distant past, she received a patient who had been in a car accident.
He was a 13-year-old boy and both of his parents died in the accident.
The boy was in serious condition, unconscious for an extended period of time, and then he finally came to. Of course, he did not know or remember what had happened.
Eventually, someone had to tell him what happened. So they did, and the boy grieved.
Think of that. Think of a 13-year-old boy, who is trying to establish himself as a man. It may have been just that week that he said something like – I can take care of myself – or, I don’t need you to tell me what to do – or, why won’t you leave me alone?
And then he was alone. Marcy says he wailed, and he moaned, and he cried all through the night. He could not be consoled, so great was his loss.
Let us pause, because even as Marcy told the story, I thought of the cynical spirit which is at work in our age. I thought of that spirit which says that God cannot account for the evil and suffering that we see. That spirit which drowns hope because life can only be seen – bravely – through the prism of despair.
The cynic would nod solemnly as this boy found his world shattered. “See, how can there be a loving God? Is this love, what you are feeling now? There is no explanation for this tragedy, and if God is all-powerful, He could have prevented it.”
This, itself, is an explanation: The boy – anyone in his position – feels such great emptiness that an explanation is wanting. The cynic has nothing positive to say. He only answers in the negative, affirming the sorrow by noting what appears to be absent. He encourages the boy to cast off any notion of God, and the boy is thus cut off from life, meaning, purpose.
Well, this boy had older siblings, and these siblings had children. The next day, his niece and nephew – aged 5 and 6 – came to visit him in the hospital after his night of mourning.
And they seized upon him with great joy. The leapt at him, climbed all over him, kissed and hugged him. Though he was in great pain, and though he might have preferred, in his flesh, to have these children off of him, he did not resist them. He welcomed their kisses, he embraced their joy.
Let us not take that for granted, even if it is natural. After a night of profound sorrow, of abysmal despair, this young man smiled. He laughed. He suffered willingly for the affection of his niece and nephew.
What will the cynic say now? Let him be silent; I will speak.
Fuck you, cynic. Go to Hell, and send back the soul you have possessed.
For you know nothing about the unrelenting joy of love, the resilience of souls; you preach the heat death of the Universe but know nothing about the white-hot light of God Almighty, who will raise from the dead everything which you have declared lost.
You – most pitiable and depraved of spirits – would have closed the book on that night of wailing and secretly relished a boy’s true expression of despair. You would have said that this is all there is to life, and no more. This one, too, you would have expected to harvest.
But here are two other children – and the very same grieving boy, becoming a man – who live and love in defiance of your lies. They are Job, and you are Satan – God boasts of their faithfulness, and puts you to shame.
Put away your sickle. This one is a child of the Most High, and he will not be deceived by your damnable cunning. He will live, and you will perish.