Everyone knows that chefs use a lot of colourful language. I am guilty of it. I am working on it.
The reason I allowed myself to get into the habit of swearing, was simple: I told myself that it was only words. If it’s only words, then it doesn’t matter and the ‘offensive’ or ‘bad’ part about it was defined by the people whose company I was in. If I was in the kitchen, or on a fishing trip, it was all just part of every conversation and so it became part of my regular use in those situations.
However, in an entirely unrelated situation, I began to see that words and in particular names and titles, have genuine power, greater than letters on a page or vibrations in the air.
I wont go into what that situation was as that would be an unhelpful sidetrack, but it was key to my realisation that inappropriate words draw a heart away from what is good and right, even when they appear to be entirely arbitrary and not even used in a negative or derogatory way. I have found it true that the more you say something, the more you believe it. In the case of specifics, or simply attitudes. The more you believe it, the more you see it and act accordingly. This is a dangerous perpetual cycle. The above situation is a psychological one, a training of the brain if you will. I have found that words are even more than that. They also have effect, or power in the spiritual realm. Biblically, names are very important and I think that is because they are more than simply something to identify someone with. It’s another paradox of the spirit, but although speaking the ‘right’ name doesn’t necessarily bring the power associated with it, changing or not using a name can strip someone or something of their power.
So aside from the actual swear words, which I have realised are harder to remove from my cultural vocabulary than I expected, here are two that I don’t (or at least try not to) use.
Trash (In relation to a person ie white trash, trailer trash etc)
Trash is American for rubbish, just in case you didn’t know. Trash is what we throw away. It is stuff that is of no value, only to be lugged off to somewhere far away from us to rot.
No person is trash. None. No one. Never.
We like to think that we would never think that of a person but… still we call people trash and we don’t care what happens to them when they leave or presence. Now, I’m not saying that we should be trying to look after, or even concern ourselves with what happens to every person, but I am saying that we should never be wishing them harm, nor even uncaring ambivalence. A human life wasted is always a tragedy. Even the lives of those who take the lives of others. It may be just, but it is still tragic.
If we call people trash, whether it’s someone we know, someone on the street or a celebrity that we actually have no idea about, we devalue human life. If we devalue one human life, eventually we will find ourselves devaluing huge chunks of human lives for one reason or another. Human life is priceless, it should not be devalued.
People are never trash.
This is my big one. My current big step in my spiritual growth, is to remove ‘luck’ from my life. I don’t believe in it anyway. There is no luck, only providence, blessing, skill, practice, fallen nature and punishment. That is not an exhaustive list, but the point is this, luck is unguided and uncontrolled, the world is not. Think you can live without using the term luck? How about lucky? Fortunate or unfortunate? There are a myriad of synonyms and antonyms that I keep finding myself using in what can only be an unconscious effort to undermine God’s control over the events I see. I am learning to give God the credit that He is due, people the justice (or credit) they deserve and sin the respect it deserves.
An interesting application of this that I have run into is when I find myself having to give God the credit for ‘lucky breaks.’
For example, whenever I talk about unexpected good things that happen in my life, I endeavour to use the terms blessed, or the Lord provided. Ie: when talking about the job I now have, which is spectacularly more family friendly that almost every other chef job ever, I will say how much of a blessing it is or that the Lord certainly provided for us rather than how lucky I was to get it. Not only does it remind ME how good the Lord is, but it is testimony to what He has done in the presence of whoever I am talking with.
Let’s say I am ‘lucky’ enough to win lotto. Woo!!
Take out lucky and replace it with blessed.
If it is money that I have randomly acquired, I can therefore do what I like with it. Suddenly when it’s a gift from God, at the very least, it will produce gratitude. However, what I have found, is that it reminds me that I am a steward of what God gives me. Whenever I find myself with an unexpected windfall, I begin looking around for what God has planned for it. In my experience, part or all of it has usually immediately gone to something that came up at the same time. This has led me to believe that ‘luck’ and money especially do not go together.
Another example: earlier this year I caught a large Sampson fish. It was the peak of my year as far as fishing is concerned. An exciting capture, but it was unable to be released so I found myself with a large amount (around 10kg) of fillets. I gave nearly all of it away and in the process heard a couple of stories of people who were really blessed by the unexpected fresh fish.
The same happened with a snapper I caught in September.
My ‘lucky’ captures are part of Gods plan to bless other people.
It would also be remiss not to mention the converse: sudden windfalls (especially money related) can be ‘unlucky.’ How many stories are there of people suddenly finding themselves with money which has produced, directly or indirectly, only bitterness, anger, malice, rage… Etc
Good luck, good fortune, call it what you want, can quickly become misfortune if it is not seen in the light of God’s providence.
Removing ‘bad luck’ from your life is even harder than removing good. What can it be beside ‘bad luck’ when a person gets cancer or eaten by a shark? It may be personal judgement, but what if it’s not? It may be a result of their own foolish actions ie: swimming at dawn at a known shark hot spot, or not wearing sunscreen or getting skin checks, but what if it’s not? The fallen nature of this world is the cause of both disease and predation meaning that both cases are part of the overarching judgement on creation, but why Timmy? Unlucky? My inclination is to say that every day that you don’t die, or find yourself diagnosed with a terrible illness is only because the Lord has protected you. Death and judgement is the purest justice on Adam’s descendants, every day we live is because we are shown mercy and grace.
Finally a very personal story which I debated whether to include…
My mum had the ‘misfortune’ of dying of breast cancer. I was 11 at the time. She was a disciple of Jesus Christ with no doubt that, to paraphrase, “for her to live was Christ and to die was gain.” Physical death is a consequence, but not a punishment. By her attitude and the attitudes of our believing family and friends as her health failed I saw the strength of her faith and that was to eventually become a pillar in my own faith. She may not have taken a bullet, but by her death, she saved me. By which I mean, her physical death, which is ultimately inconsequential for her in light of eternity, had a huge consequence as part of my eternal salvation. I doubt that I am the only one for whom her death had eternal consequence either. Again, if we remove ‘luck’ from the equation, what are we left with? No, I don’t think God gave her cancer to save me (or anyone else) but a necessary consequence of sin was used as providence for eternity. For the record, no I don’t think her death was all about my salvation either. However, unguided, arbitrary luck can evaporate as I give God praise for the marvelous way that He used the fallen nature of this world in my mum, who was already eternally saved, to save me for eternity to. The Lord is good, who can fathom His infinite wisdom?
From huge life changing events, to the little things of the everyday, luck doesn’t even come close.
This just scratches the surface of terms that can cause us to brainwash ourselves in the way we think and act. There are plenty that are only a hazard in certain circumstances and plenty that are not single words or even phrases, but attitudes driving whatever the words we use that we need to think about what we are really saying. I started by mentioning the power of names and titles, that is another area to watch closely, especially if you start to change them. Hopefully this will get you thinking about your own choice of vocabulary and we can all learn to speak more love and peace, wisdom and providence. Who knows what effect it might have in the spiritual realm?