When I was 12 or 13, I had a real thing for cussing.
I was raised better than that, of course, which was exactly what made it so fantastic. I had no control of anything I wanted to have control of at that stage of life, but I could cuss when no one was listening.
Today was *!$%y.
&*$% it, I don’t know why my mom did that.
My friends didn’t invite me to their party. Well, $^&* them!
Of course, this diary cussing began to leak, especially when I was mad or trying to be cool. It was my power play, and it pretty much always backfired. No matter . . . even when I was grounded or (gulp) sitting in the principal’s office for something I wrote in a seventh grade yearbook, it still made me feel shiny and strong and powerful.
It took a few years, but I mostly outgrew the cussing (I say mostly because, like all bad habits, it has a tendency to resurface). Sadly, I did not outgrow the need for a vice. Cussing morphed to blasting Snoop Dogg in middle school to watching Rated R movies in high school to binge drinking in law school to watching six seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on my second maternity leave to hiding cheap wine under my bathroom sink this summer. All of these things are similar: partaking in them made me feel strong and powerful and IN CONTROL. And also, all of these things were a little fun. I liked watching Grey’s Anatomy. I liked drinking at parties. I liked knowing the Snoop Dogg lyrics.
All of these things are also similar in that they are common, acceptable, and give the appearance of harmlessness. Who cares if I watch racy television shows? Who cares if I cuss to my dog? Who cares if I hoard wine under my sink? Everybody’s got something, and . . . who’s it hurting anyway?
The thing is, despite roughly 20 years of being in denial about this, I think that the person these things are hurting is me. And maybe not in obvious ways. I may not be in imminent danger of alcoholism, adultery, or even harming others with my speech, but I am in danger of living a common life. And while a common life may not sound superficially shameful, when viewed through the lens of what I have been given and what I am poised to do . . . it is tragic.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not saying that my hands are more capable than yours or my abilities unparalleled. In fact, adulthood has shown me that on my own, I am altogether ordinary and frequently outmatched. But the thing is . . . I am not on my own! I am not even my own! I am the daughter of the King Most High, purchased with a great price, crowned with glory and honor! On my own I am capable of little, but in His hands and under His care I am capable of the most extraordinary things! Things that He can do without me but things I don’t want to miss. Things that make life abundant and exciting to live!
And yet, too often I am not living like the Daughter of the Most High King. Instead, I am living like a peasant, trying to slake my thirst with single size servings of college-girl wine stored under my bathroom sink or numb my hurts with common entertainment that dims my vision and normalizes inequality.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that those vices of mine . . . they don’t make me powerful. They make me powerless. They strip me of my purpose and make me forget my inheritance. They make me common at a time when the world is starving for uncommon. And that is tragic with tragic consequences. If you don’t believe me, look at Syria! Look at Charlottesville! Look at Sandy Hook! Look at the front page of the paper in any town in America. Surely all of us who can claim status as children of the King were born for such a time as this, and it wasn’t so we could drown it out watching the latest Shonda Rhimes show on tv! There is so much to be done, but not if we are spending ourselves on little things totally irrelevant to our purpose.
So listen, today I’m speaking for myself. I want to be busy with the big. I want to be busy with the best. Our world needs that from me, and I need that from me too. But to do that, I’ve got to stop being common. And to stop being common, I’ve got to let go of common things and common habits and common vices. I’ve got to step into my inheritance.
I’ve got to start acting like a Daughter of the King.
The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.