Lessons from the Lunch Lady: Watch your %*#^$* Language

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. ~ Proverbs 12:18

We stood in an awkward triangle at work, two of us leaning on mops while the other held a cardboard box she was breaking down. One spoke speedy Spanish to the other, gesturing and nodding as she communicated information with the second girl that was intended to be passed on to me. I listened attentively, wishing for the 37th time that I’d taken Spanish in high school instead of French.

Bonjour? Comment-allez confused. 

Finally the second woman turned to me and relayed the message, explaining in detail the duty we were sharing for the month of October. She finished her explanation with an expression that left my ears buzzing and my stomach tight. 

“She wants to make sure we all know what to do, so we’re not talking sh** about each other.”  

Sometimes when I walk through the back door of the middle school’s kitchen I feel like I’m stepping off a space ship into another world. It’s the planet Profanitis, and I haven’t walked this landscape in many years.

20 years ago, I wouldn’t have given second thought to the expression my co-worker casually used. My form of rebellion in high school wasn’t alcohol, drugs, or promiscuity. I was naïve about what other students were doing at home, in the bathrooms at school, and in the parking lot after school. In fact, I clearly remember students giggling at my black Ohio State backpack during my junior year. When I asked what was so funny, a senior in my math class explained that the leaves on my backpack (the buckeye emblem had leaves) looked just like a marijuana plant. He laughed even more when I stared at at him blankly.  

But rebel, I did. I rebelled on the soccer field and in the notebooks I sent back and forth with friends. I rebelled in what I said to my parents, breaking their hearts over and over. I rebelled in an ugly way, one that tightens and strains my soul to this day.

I rebelled with my tongue. I cursed. A lot.

(This is a difficult post to write because I want to honor my parents with all I do and say. My mom and dad probably don’t appreciate the reminder of my {terribly} mouthy days, but I’m so grateful for their love and patience through my rebellious time. I certainly didn’t learn my bad language from them, so I pray this doesn’t reflect poorly on their parenting, but rather on my wrong choices in high school.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m working part-time at a local middle school. The job is a blessing and a trial, and I’m learning to rely even more on my Savior and His strength. Lately, though, the colorful language flying through the kitchen has begun weighing on me. The vulgar names and curse words make me uncomfortable and sad.

But God is so wonderfully faithful, and nearly every day on the way to work He blesses me with a song that lifts me up, one that I can sing to myself as I go about my duties.  

Today I hummed Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow You.”

I’m also thankful my hubby doesn’t say or approve of swear words (or pseudo swear words), including ‘crap’ or ‘dangit.’ Trevor lives out Proverbs 10:19…”In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” He thinks carefully before he speaks, something I didn’t do for many years and I still struggle with. I’m very grateful that our home is a swear-free zone because of his faithful example.

As I prayed about this post and read through God’s word, a verse in James struck me about why our language needs to be clean in order to glorify God. James wrote about the potent power of the tongue in chapter 3:1-12. In verse 11 he asks the question, “Can a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”

Our mouths house the power to influence those around us for God’s glory. I don’t want my tongue speaking bitter water (curse words, gossip, ugly remarks) about others. That would lump me in with the world, but I want to stand out for Jesus. So I pray that out of my mouth flows fresh water from my Savior (kind, helpful words, thoughtful questions).

When I think back to my high school years, I realize that my mouth was a dirty spring sending forth bitter water, and I’m so grateful for God’s patience, forgiveness and grace. Now I pray the words I speak will revive others with their purity and most imporantly, that they’ll please my Savior’s heart.

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:5

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3 thoughts on “Lessons from the Lunch Lady: Watch your %*#^$* Language

  1. Kerry, I admire your transparency, your heart for Jesus, and the writing ministry you have to share the Good News. You are such a blessing! I’m proud to know you…

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