This topic is difficult to write about, as it paints me in a negative light. I believe, however, that this is something that needs to be said.
Ever since I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 15, I have wavered back and forth in my faith. I have gone through many different periods when I was close to God, seeking His will daily in my life. On the other hand, there have also been many times when I have rebelled from God, committing sins and living a lifestyle that I knew deep down I shouldn’t be.
If I’m at a point in my life when I’m closer to God and trying to live the way I believe He wants me to, then the harshest words I might use are “heck” or “dang”. During these times, it’s natural for me to react more softly to daily trials and tribulations. It’s something I don’t really even have to think about, but instead comes as a result of regular bible reading and prayer. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34b).
On the flipside of this, however, during times of rebellion I do not hesitate to take God’s name in vain. When I get angry or bitter about something that isn’t going my way, I tend to put His name in front of “d****t”, making this expletive even harsher and more cutting.
At the moment that this pair of words comes out of my mouth, it is as if I am saying to God, “I really mean what I’m saying here. I’m not kidding around.” For instance, suppose I’ve had a particularly bad day and then on top of it all my favorite shirt rips when I’m putting it on. After spewing out those two words I might grit my teeth and yell something like, “I have absolutely had it with this day!” At that moment I may as well be yelling to Heaven, glaring with my fist raised to God, telling Him that it all needs to stop now because I’m not going to take it anymore! Or else!
Or else what? one would ask. Or else nothing actually. What am I really supposed to do if I’m mad at God. Of course, there’s nothing I can do except sit and pout.
In the moment, my childish nature is completely ruling me, yet all my anger and rebellion seems effective to me.
I realized several years ago that I could use my response to stressful situations as a kind of barometer of my spiritual condition.
If something unnerving happens in my day, and I simply smile and shake my head, then I realize that I’m on track spiritually speaking. Look back over recent days and weeks, I’ll be able to see that I’ve made strong efforts to live for God. On the other hand, I know my spiritual life is in the gutter if “GD” comes out of my mouth.
I have found this barometer most helpful to my spiritual life in the area of comparison. I can either stop and think to myself, Boy, I’ve come a long way in the last six months. I remember when I use to get all bent out of shape being stuck in traffic. Or I can think, It’s sad to realize how much my spiritual life has deteriorated in the last few weeks. I really need to get back on track with God. In this way, the barometer either serves as kudos for myself, or as a convicting reminder.
Along with the profanities (or lack thereof) that come out of my mouth, I discovered several years ago that the type of music I’m listening to at any given time is also a kind of barometer for my spiritual state.
For example, if I’m content listening to lighter music such as KLOVE, and I feel “nourished” by it, then there’s a good chance that in recent days I’ve actively been trying to please God and not rebel against him.
On the other hand, if I try to listen to KLOVE, but all it really does it irritate me (because who is that happy and content anyway to be able to sing in such a “smily” voice?), then it’s probably something harder, edgier that I really crave — maybe pop or even hard rock or metal. If I pause long enough to reflect on my situation, I’ll realize that I’m most likely not at a point at that moment where I care enough to live my life for God.
There are many nuances to this music barometer. I could go into great detail describing scenarios for the different types of music I listen to. It doesn’t really matter, though. The point is that the music I’m most comfortable with at any given moment reflects my spiritual state.
Yes, of course, I realize that the reverse is also true. What I allow into my ears (and consequently my mind) has a huge effect on my attitude and my desire to live for God. “Garbage in, garbage out,” as the experts tell us. Here I must assert that often I will choose to listen to something “better” (read less rebellious and more spiritual) if I realize that my walk with God is suffering.
Referencing these indicators is not meant to belittle my faith in God. As human beings, most of us value our appearance. We look in a mirror to give us an idea of what we look like to other people. Over the years I’ve realized that because I’m thankful to God for His salvation and I want to worship Him, I can use these behavioral barometers to get a quick check of my spiritual condition — kind of like taking a quick glance in the mirror to see if I have anything on my face.