Letters to a Sister

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Thinking about new year resolutions…

Do you swear very often? I try not to but I swear more than Mum and Dad used to. I’m not sure I ever heard Dad swear in anger. I heard Mum about three times throughout our whole childhood, which is pretty impressive really. Each of those three times was at me for something I had done. I do remember one particular incident when she swore at me and Dad came into the hall behind her and I felt positively elated because I knew that he would tell her off. I still got sent to my room, I can’t even remember what I had said or done, but whatever it was, I felt that Mum had been worse because she had sworn. It was such a big deal.

Do you remember at Infant School when if you were heard swearing you had to go to the staff room and rinse out your mouth with soap and water? Tasted foul. (The reason that I know this was your fault – you had told me to put two fingers in my mouth and say “bucket” and I was showing other children on the playground when the teacher caught me!) Not sure you would be allowed to soap children’s mouths today, though I don’t think it hurt us. It also didn’t really stop us swearing, we just made sure that there weren’t any teachers around.

As I said, I can’t remember Dad swearing. I do remember him smoking though. He told me that it was good for his health when he was working late because it kept him warm but that I shouldn’t tell Mum. I was young enough to believe him. It wasn’t until later that I realised that what he was telling me was untrue, we always just accepted what we were told. I sometimes start to explain something to my own children (like that the moon is made of cheese) and I’ll suddenly think, “Oh no, that is rubbish actually.”

I did try to not swear when the children were small and I must have been fairly successful. Someone (stupidly) gave them magnetic letters to go on the fridge and the boys used to write swear words on there because they thought I didn’t know any so wouldn’t realise what they had written. Most of them were spelt wrong. Very disappointing as a teacher.

I don’t think swearing is a good trait, it shows a certain lack of control. I also think it reflects more who you are used to being with, we tend to assimilate speech patterns without noticing. I tell off my children for swearing but it’s not the worst thing they could do.

When we lived in the US, the swear words were different. I was shocked to hear the pastor ‘swearing’ from the pulpit. They were shocked when I ‘swore’ during Sunday School. My children tell me that a lot of the words I think are swear words are now acceptable. I tend to not believe them.

Actually, we did get told off quite a lot growing up, I think perhaps children did in those days. Not just by Mum and Dad either, I remember at the Girl’s Group we went to at church, being told off for giggling. Do you remember that quiz we made up, where we read a Psalm and then read it again with mistakes in it and people had to stand up if they heard a mistake? It was very long and repetitive and we started giggling and the leader told us off, said we should show more respect for God’s word. She was, I suppose, sort of right but now I’m older, I don’t think actually God would have minded two teenaged girls giggling over something that sounded strange. It was the strangeness of the words that made us giggle, nothing really about God.

That’s often the trouble with the Bible, the words sound very strange. It’s easy to forget that they were real conversations, real letters and poems and stories written for real people. Much of it was written by rough manual workers – I bet they swore sometimes.

I have been reading the Psalms again lately. We have just finished studying ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ at church – a study book written by someone whose name sounds like a fungal infection. Anyway, it had some interesting bits but isn’t really my sort of thing. I like to read the Bible alongside some kind of commentary, something that explains the weird phraseology and the context in which it was written. I am using a book by Michael Wilcock, who I don’t think I would like if I met him (a bit bossy and ‘preachy’) but his writing is interesting.

He begins with the first Psalm/poem/song (whatever you want to call it) and he explains the odd word ‘blessed’. When we say “bless” today we either mean it like a pat on the head – “Aw, bless” or because someone has sneezed – “Bless you!” – a throw back to when the plague in 1600’s started with a sneeze, a sort of quick blessing before the person dies. Though sneezing today is unlikely to lead to a quick death. However, Mr Wilcock, the preachy one, defines “Blessed” as : a ‘life of delight and fruitfulness, with a sense of worth’. I like that, I want that sort of life.

I hope your new year is blessed.

Take care,
Anne xxxx

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Thank you for reading.

This is a reply to my sister’s letter, which you can read at:
http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.ca/2015/12/next-year-im-going-to-hawaii-for.html

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