In elementary school I learned that some of my friends had mothers who washed their mouths with soap for saying a ‘bad’ word. As a young child I listened, curious, to these strange new confessions of ‘soap in the mouth’. My eyes grew big and my cheeks red as my classmate’s seven-year-old eyes turned to quiet little me. Had I ever needed soap in my mouth?
Yikes. I was still trying to grasp the idea of a mom or dad putting soap into a child’s mouth. Still trying to figure out what my classmates meant by ‘bad words.’ I believe I just shook my head no. Hoping they thought that meant I hadn’t said any bad words and not that my parents were bad parents to me. Because the latter was something so unbearably shameful that I tried to hide it most of my life.
I started to learn the difference between bad words and good words sometime after I started Sunday school and Kindergarten. Words and phrases which earned open laughter at home, had a deafening effect in a classroom. One time at church I landed in really big trouble. That correction was doubly shameful for me; as the teacher was shocked and quite angry and the other children stared at me in a mixture of confusion and horror– then avoided me.
It is far better to learn such lessons from private applications of bitter soap than from a publicly bitter rebuke. The memory of the teacher’s scolding and my classmates responses can still bring me shame to this day. Meanwhile my peers return home to visit aging parents and likely now appreciate once getting ‘soaped’.
If we love others, we will remember this and quietly try to rebuke, to discipline, to ‘soap’ them in private, before they inevitably get soaped publicly.
Oh, were I to have known the joy of parents and close adult caretakers who actually cared enough to privately correct and discipline me as a child! I would have gladly tasted soap on my tongue for the chance to have known that kind of love.
But I have now learned to be glad for their lack of discipline. I believe what I missed actually helps me long for and embrace God’s discipline for those He loves. Now I often ask for, and WANT God’s discipline in my life.
With all that’s happening in the world there is a frequently repeated statement from experts that ‘soap works well against this virus‘.
Which has me pondering the spiritual connotation of soap, including a wayward child getting his mouth washed out with it. Can our mouths/tongues be chock full of germs? Uh, YES, both literally and figuratively. Often with the things of God there is a direct spiritual correlation to what is happening in the natural world. Which is the reason I am pondering the strange fact that simple soap will work against this awful virus…
Surely that means something?
As shared above, my formative years were spent learning all kinds of uncouth utterances and then having to learn the hard way that was not acceptable in some places. I eventually picked up on how my adult caretakers, and the minister in my family (the same one who molested and assaulted me), said naughty words in ‘close’ or ‘select’ company; but did not talk the same at church or to the general public. My abusers chose their words depending on their audience. But in private it was clear that no real soap had been applied to their tongues.
This ‘pretend soap’ strategy worked. People in church and community thought highly of my adult caretakers, while they continued to do as they pleased privately.
So I began to do the same. I pretend soaped my own mouth too. Words laughed at, at home, were carefully restrained in church and in school. And while I felt wonderfully free with no sting whatsoever to my conscience, I know now that I was growing more rotten inside each time I unleashed profanity in private.
Then came teenage years when I thought openly cussing in public was cool! I already knew how to use swear words with ease. Whereas some of my friends had to practice and think about it. Plus they still had to hide their dirty mouths from Mothers and Fathers- who continued to threaten them with soap. Lucky me, I only had to tone it down in church and school!
In time it was the Holy Spirit who urged me to clean up my mouth. So it was never a ‘mother threatening to get the soap’ nor is it now my own hypocritical efforts to look like I am ‘clean’. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit which convicts me when I slip into old cussing habits (hard to break things that were a part of you since toddlerhood).
Growing up in that environment, and as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, I know well that the church can be full of leaders and people who ‘pretend soap’ themselves.
And now that it could be deadly to skip the soap in a public restroom, I think it’s a great time to talk about spiritual realities. I believe it has always been DEADLY to our spiritual life, to ‘pretend soap’ ourselves, particularly so as professing Christians. To gloss over those hypocritical areas we all have and to continue to resist the discipline of God is numbing to our conscience. Hopefully the current circumstances might be that wake up call for some. Because I sense we Christians are being urged to stop the pretense and to start truly living under Holy Spirit discipline.
Before this crisis hit I appreciated ministers who urged their flocks to ‘repent’ and I was leery of those who didn’t. Most of the ministers I still follow (it’s dwindled down to only a few now) were watching for signs of Jesus return and were urging repentance long before this virus occurred. Now that it has hit, I am even more leery of those ministers and leaders who are not giving a clear call to repentance. But I still listen to a wide variety of general Christian content as youtube often picks up the next sermon randomly and I’ll keep listening in; more now than ever.
And some of those fresh sermons are making me uneasy. I am taken back to where I was earlier in my therapy processes when certain ministers had mannerisms which triggered flashbacks and trauma to my childhood abuse at the hands of a minister. Some of that is still from past abuse, undoubtedly. As I know well what it is to be bound to a church leader who claims to use ‘the soap’ while he’s reminded unwashed; casting off germs left and right with all he touches. But before you dismiss this entirely as ‘just a trauma survivor response’. What do you think of the hour in which we now live? Do you, as I do, believe that any minister not clearly urging people to personal repentance in this hour is missing something so key that one begins to question if he (or she) is actually soaping up himself?
So if any church leaders are reading this, please, I urge you, if you feel led to tell us to do our Christian service and go check on our neighbors and to keep giving money to the needy and all that, great, those are good and noble things — but please at least add in some concern about CHECKING OURSELVES for unrevealed sin, SOAPING OURSELVES with frequent repentance and truly being ready and watching for Jesus’ return.
I also wonder if this virus and it’s unique consequences on church attendance is being allowed to reveal those who merely claim to be in Christ Jesus. I pray I am not among those who Jesus casts aside as false followers….as it is quite clear to me that the hour is late. Which makes anything I might try to hide from confession to Jesus– dangerous.
As a Christian the most important thing is that I remain wholehearted toward God, myself, and trying to lead others closer to Jesus as is possible (without losing my own faith in the process). Which is why I listen soooo carefully to the message coming from that youtube screen.
I’m listening for the sound of soap bubbles…
As for me and my house– I hope to have cleaned my own doorstep and hands WELL before I hit the streets in service and/or evangelism. For whatever I am carrying WILL spread. Jesus is the soap. My sin is the virus. My efforts to hide my sins on my own and ‘appear clean’ in areas I am not; might be even more deadly than an ‘open kind of sin’– to myself and to others!
Now is not the time to be ‘fake clean’–to keep hiding the dirt and germs. Rather it is the time to wash them away by the blood of Jesus.
Remember: Soap works well against this virus. It doesn’t kill it, per say, but it does remove it until another exposure. Much like continual repentance works against our sin-state.
We are going through much more soap than usual in our home and at work. Today I want to start saying The Lord’s Prayer every time I wash my hands, as the length of time spent washing, and getting into a discipline of regular prayer, are both so important.
And indeed, around the world we are all having greater contact with soap. For those with eyes and ears to see and hear, I do believe that is revealing a spiritual warning and an urging to be in greater contact with the true and only purifier : Jesus Christ and His shed blood for all. Like bleach kills a virus; His shed blood kills our sin.
It is, perhaps, just a private warning for now. But eventually any lack of discipline and any failure to ‘soap up’ will become painfully public.
Few things bother me, after so much therapy to address my childhood traumas, and a lot of time devoted to healing — I am in a pretty good place now.
Yet the reaction of my Sunday school teacher and a room full of peers, to words I didn’t even know were ‘bad’ when I uttered them ‘at church’ as a small child, continue to bring a sense of shame and regret to my heart whenever my mind goes to that painful memory.
I have made peace with it because I see the lesson in it. I believe that memory needs to remain as a thorn of warning for me; and perhaps others. Because as a result of that experience I had, I can safely say that no one wants those things we do or say that we have no idea are ‘bad’–yes, nobody will want those things to be publicly disclosed. It’s unbearable when that happens.
How, then, do we avoid hidden shame being revealed, given that when we are blind, we don’t even know what it is which we cannot see?
We trust the scriptures which say there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. And we know that God publicly exposes us sometimes for our own good and learning; or with those who have resisted beyond all His efforts to discipline privately. We can ask Him to be the soap that reveals and kills any hidden germs we don’t even realize are hidden. We put the time in with ‘soaping our hearts.’ We read the Old Testament and the New Testament and let it work on our hearts to reveal our sins. If we have hard areas, we ask God to rip them open. If we need healing, we take time to stay home and heal. We make prayer and scripture a daily habit and practice as common as brushing our teeth and washing our hands. We take communion. We remember that ‘wherever two or more are gathered’…Church can meet at home, a married couple + Jesus counts as a gathering too.
Since I appreciate those who try to privately squirt some soap in my mouth, or eyes, or ears, I pray someone out there appreciates my effort to do that here.
As for me: I hope I do not run or resist or twist my head and shut up my mouth, but willingly open it and ask to be shown exactly where I am still in need of correction. And to then receive His efforts to correct me. Even if it tastes bitter.
Most soap does. It’s kinda the point.