This phrase, coined by Steve Martin, the once reigning king of "Funny but Wrong", is a phrase that unfortunately, all too often, reflects the level of humor at the Duncan home. Those who are well acquainted with us know that this is "sad but true". However, recently the Spirit of the Lord has called me up on it! One may ask, "Why did He wait until now?" But I do not think it was Him who procrastinated! His Word has always discouraged "crude speech, silly jesting, and unprofitable language", in the complete Jewish Bible it says, "Obscenity, stupid talk and coarse language"! Ouch! But I think it simply took me awhile to work down through the many layers of callouses that the flesh developed through "self-defense" mechanisms in childhood, which I unwittingly continued to reinforce through adulthood. However, in my defense I will say that I inherited this "dark gift" legitimately. It is only one of the many inherited "generational strongholds" which I had to pull down with the help of the Lord, His Word, and His anointed ones!
If Steve Martin was once the king of this unholy realm, then my mother was once the queen. Negativity, which flowed from her in an uncapped fountain of pure bitterness made even her humor to be dark and unsavory, though often extremely funny and indisputably well timed! Being a word-smith myself I inherited her "gift" for a well-turned, well-timed quip, and also the "brown-colored-glasses" that tinted it into less than righteous colors! It was usually a weapon against the abusive self-righteous ones in the family. Those who heaped more shame to my already deepening pain by adding their judgment (which sounded righteous, though was often only empty prideful, religious condemnation). But I found that I could often make it go away, if only temporarily, by shocking them into a stunned silence, or by getting them to fall into guilt themselves by laughing hysterically at something which they should have condemned - by their own standard at least!
I know, pretty low tactics. However, as a child and as a teen suffering the crisis of constant abuse from too many adults to list, anything at my disposal became a useful weapon. Also, humor helped me maintain my equilibrium. Life had a perpetual cloud over it - besides the layer of blue-gray smoke from mother's chain smoking - there was a cloud of shame from the abuse, that hung threateningly over our souls day and night, threatening exposure, humiliation, and utter suffocation. It was as if the sun never came up. So humor was used regularly to break holes through that cloud, to try and convince us that everything was going to be alright after all. It was the way we kept our small sense of self, refusing to collapse into the depression that constantly haunted! By wielding a sense of humor, the cruder the better, we survived the whip-lash of sexual abuse on the one hand and bitter, religious condemnation on the other! It was an effective self-protection device of our immature brains! Obviously it worked to hold the place together until I was able to trust G-d to take over!
The Word says, "When I was child, I thought as a child, reasoned as a child and acted as a child (made childish choices), but when I became a man I put away childish things...". The term "put away", denotes a forceful, deliberate casting off of habits and belief structures that are no longer profitable to the mature. The self-defense mechanism, totally essential to the childish mind for survival, has its proper time, and its real purpose, but when its purpose has been achieved it must be deliberately put aside. Sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds! These mental patterns do tend to form strongholds for survival. These often become spiritual and intellectual belief structures which must be forcefully and deliberately demolished when their usefulness has passed. Often help was sought out to accomplish this task! It can be daunting to turn loose of the only safety one has had to rely on. The faulty, though somewhat logical, reasoning is that if G-d gave it to us to keep us safe then, then it should be okay now. But He is an ever maturing, ever progressing kind of G-d! Not that He needs to mature or progress! What I meant was that He means for us to be ever progressing and maturing into His image, which was His original intention. He is perfect! But He is ever guiding us toward that perfection! Just to be clear on that.
I am thankful that my childish mind was so quick and so able in the varied arts of psychological survival! I am thankful that G-d had provided those ways of escape for me, and that I was able to utilize them for my own good! Everything from humor to "dissociation" and even "split personality" was used for a season to sustain my ravaged soul somewhat in tact until I could escape the horrors of what was my "life" then. Even at that I was a shattered and tattered soul when the Lord picked me up, at my request! But as I have grown up, as the Spirit of G-d has hovered over my soul's destruction, ordering the mental chaos which was caused by those once protective elements, He has led me to "put away" those self-protection devices and to turn to Him for my source of safety! I was not able to do that alone, as I have said, I have received much help from His anointed ones!
Yeshua said, "He who seeks to save His life will loose it, but He who will give up His life for my sake, will find it (the real life in G-d)...". I think this is a good example of what He meant. Because, those "self-defense" arts, while useful for maintaining mental coherence in childhood, will cause severe dysfunction in adults! Making us socially disabled, and unhealthy. Causing us to become self-oriented and spiritually and socially alienated from anything or anyone that could help us! Selfishness has caused many a soul to lose their lives! Driven them to divorce, driven their children away from them, driven them to drink until that drink is all they have left! Trying to protect an ever more threatened sense of self-esteem! Ecclesiastes speaks of "everything having a purpose", even the psychological defense mechanisms have their place and purpose in childhood, but then, if we are to enter into a covenant of trust with the Creator, Blessed be He, and have the abundant life that is promised in our Salvation, then we must be willing to lay aside even our "right" to protect ourselves, as we mature! He wants us in our entirety, He demands our full trust, as we are able to give it! And when we come to Him for Salvation, and request His presence to dwell in us, His Spirit goes through His newly acquired "Temple" with a fine tooth comb and a white glove, to rid us of all that is not holy, of every crumb that is "chametz/leaven", that is, every vestige of flesh that would disqualify us for being in the presence of G-d! It is not an overnight clean-up, it is a life-long process! Even if you were not the shattered mess that I was! Many a soul have despaired from being holy because of an unrealistic expectation of holiness set by the church! But I have rarely seen any of them come up to that expectation themselves!
So now, back to my own issue of Teshuvah! He has finally gotten my attention concerning this "off-colored" vocabulary issue. Wow. How we avoid calling a spade a spade, or a sin a sin! Notice how many different ways I have referred to this problem without saying the word "sin"! I should say, "this sinful vocabulary issue"! But honestly, using unprofitable language, be it slang or just a constant flow of ugly facts that tear folks down, which the silly world calls "negative vibes" or "bad karma", has become more "socially acceptable" these days, even in the church, than the typical religious rhetoric. Not all bad I think. There are many reasons for this development, and not all of them are inherently evil.
I think it may be a "knee-jerk" reaction to rampant pharisaism that seem to characterize the "Greatest Generation", but which was rejected by the "Baby-boomers" who followed! I think that perhaps this has happened because the Word of G-d has been so watered down in recent years by those preaching it, in an effort to become "relevant" and un-stilted. Unfortunately I fear that in trading a real reverence for a real G-d for superficial religion and then that empty religion for social and political "relevance", that we may have "thrown the baby (Jesus) out with the (proverbial religious) bath water". I totally agree that the "bath water" of empty, dead, rule-ridden, condemning religious practice needed to be gotten rid of! However, I don't think replacing it with the deception filled - though better tasting, less bitter - "kool-aid" of "social relevance" and "political correctness" is going to bring life to the dying Church! We will not see any real revival until the people of G-d return to the G-d of their fathers, and to His Torah! And begin to obey it in Spirit AND in Truth! When we just have "Truth" we become puffed up with pride, and when we just have "spirit", then it is too easy to become the pawn of ungodly spirits (since discernment is practically impossible without His Truth as a guideline!) For too long the Jews have had the Truth of Torah and the Church has had the Spirit of Yeshua, and have stood judging each other! It is time we brought the two together in Humility, so that our Messiah can come to us!
I really think that many of the regrettable, often sickening, changes that us older folk see in today's new "Church" or congregational patterns, was and is a reactionary response to a legalistic religious system. I think that it - The Church - had become stuffy, prideful, snobbishly condemning, and lifeless in its presentation; and so, in an effort to become real and warm and honest, the next generation of leadership has embraced some of the more "comfortable" (read - "non-confrontational") patterns of acceptable social interaction. But I think we have perhaps went too far afield - in the worldly direction - in trying to correct the situation! I think the concerns were valid! But unfortunately, we have left the standards of the Word behind, so it is still the flesh trying to accomplish righteousness, and it will never work! We MUST adhere to the instruction (Truth), and the heart of it (Spirit), which is laid out (line upon line and precept upon precept) for us in Torah. We must quit making excuses about "why it can not work", and be busy about finding the way to make it work for us, in our lives today! That is what obedience looks like! And the crazy world will not regain its sanity until we do!
But, by way of explanation, some of my particular thinking, concerning some of my less than righteous habits, has been that I needed to - "be who I am, on the way to whom I am becoming"! Rather that to pretend - as I felt pressured to do - that I did not have a problem with unrighteous speech patterns, when actually I did! And I think that may have been a good first step - basic honesty. How can one ever expect to get where one is going if one does not accept the truth about where one is? The only problem comes if one allows his or her flesh to get comfortable in those patterns and excuses, or, to put it another way, to set up camp and refuse to move on when the Spirit of G-d indicates!
When I brought this problem to church, when I "came out of the closet about my cussing habit", perhaps it shouldn't have been quite so warmly received? Nor am I suggesting that it should it have been reproachfully and hatefully condemned! Actually that did happen a few times, but it provoked me to reinforce and protect the stronghold, it never caused me to consider that it needed to come down! The Word tells us to correct errant ones in a "Spirit of gentleness". It requires us to "Speak the Truth in Love..."! Perhaps there were some who attempted that to no avail. If so, I am sorry that I did not receive the correction. I can not offer a valid excuse. I can explain some dynamics that were at work. That is about it.
But, perhaps, my good Christian friends, especially those who truly did not enjoy such foul language, instead of forcing themselves to "grin and bear it", or jerking me up in a humiliating barrage of prideful self-righteousness - could have pulled me to one side, and said something like - "This kind of talk really bothers me, because I am trying to keep my heart and thoughts pure...", or something to that effect. That would have slain me to the core! It would not have caused me to burn with false guilt, nor to harbor offense from"hurt feelings", or the anger of humiliation, by attacking "who I am". But it would have brought on an honest session of conviction over my unholy behavior, which may have prompted me to repentance which would have motivated me to change even sooner, or to at least seek help with the issue!
I would never want to make my own standard of righteousness a stick with which to beat my friends and acquaintances, though I most likely did so many times as a new believer, full of zeal and my own daily conviction! But neither do I want to enable sinful behavior, and reinforce harmful, profane patterns in those I claim to love! The Truth, as the standards of G-d's Holy Word as set forth in Torah, requires a delicate balance, it demands discernment. Especially when it is performed under the guidance and grace of His Spirit of Love! It is our responsibility to find this balance and strive to live in it. This should be the only kind of striving allowed in the soul of the Believing Ones!
His peace is to be our determining factor, it is to be our guide, our measuring stick through life. It is His peace which grants us solace in the midst of conflict, whether of soul or nature! It is His peace that will give us a cool head and a quiet heart! "Not a peace like the world gives", says Yeshua! For that peace requires a lack of conflict which is rarely accessible on this planet! But His is a peace that flows from a conscience that is free of guilt and condemnation and shame! This kind of soul need not defend itself, because it trusts safely in Him, not fearing His rebuke! A deep and abiding joy is the ruling characteristic of such a soul. When reviled he can let it roll off, when assailed he can gracefully forgive, and when attacked he is able to entrust his all, his very life to his G-d, he does not need to return evil for evil, because he is settled and unmovable, a veritable force, that the enemy can not "stop, drop, or roll"!
But in these times of deception and uncertainty being humorous is a much valued trait! In this nation it definitely brings more cudos and financial rewards than the telling of plain simple truth! But, though I do not intend to lose my sense of humor and become a fun-sucking religious snob (G-d forbid!), I am ready to hang up my clown hat and get real with G-d! So, no more "funny-but-wrong" from me (As G-d helps me). No more angry, vile volcanic activity either. Thankfully, the anger volcano has been diffused by the love of G-d. No more habitual, low class, lazy, negligent, spiritually irresponsible thought processes! I must work to take every thought captive to the obedience of the Anointed One! So, I am on a quest for higher ground, and that includes my vocabulary - which honestly has never been lacking, so I am really without excuse anyway.
Now that I am free to decide, I have decided that I want to be Holy and not profane! In this season of Teshuvah, which corresponds with the Jewish High Holy Days that we inherited as our own when we became believers of Yeshua, I for one have entered a season of grieving over sin (first my won, then that of my nation, family, etc)! I want to eliminate every bit of sin in my life down to the smallest, most remote, shadowy thought in the farthest reaches of my mind. I want every molecule of every organ in this body to glow with His light - since it is His Temple! I want righteousness to shine forth as noon-day! Isn't this what we are supposed to pray for concerning His "chosen people", that their "righteousness would shine forth as noon-day"? If we are praying it for them, wouldn't it be a kind of hypocrisy not to be seeking to exemplify it in our own lives first? Wouldn't that be sort of what Yeshua was talking about in the parable of the "specks, versus the beams" (those various sizes of vision blocking elements)?
At this time in my life, having crossed the half-century mark and wanting to place well in this "race" of eternal life, I have finally determined what it is that I want. It has taken all this time, because I first had to separate my voice from all the voices in my head! All those who thought they knew what I needed, or who seemed to want to dictate what I should have out of life! All those who seemed to want to remake me into their own image, instead of what G-d intended me to be!
But, having shaken free of that crowd of dissenters, I have finally gained the clarity which comes with wholeness, I have gained the freedom that comes from having ones shackles destroyed, and I have gained the authority which G-d intended each created being to have over his or her own soul! So that now, finally, I know what I want! And what I want above all is His peace, which comes from knowing His smile! When that inevitable day of judgment rolls around I want to hear only these words, "Well done, my good and faithful child, enter into the joy of the Lord!"
So, that being the goal around which all other desires turn, I must get to work! There are still many weeds to pull before He comes to inspect His garden! There must be more fruit, more increase, more beauty cultivated. So the foul, low, ugly and "WRONG" must go, no matter how cute and funny and socially relevant it may be! Holiness to the Lord! That has become the standard. The battle cry to which I must rally! I regret that I have taken so long in catching the vision, but as they say, "better late than never"! As C.S. Lewis said so eloquently,
"I thought I heard above the din, 'Further up, and further in'!" ...
So to new heights I cast my eye, for Holiness I'll live and die,
To hear from Him my soul loves best, Good Work! Well Done! You've passed the test!
So to the work, as light grows dim, for "further up, and further in"!