I remember it to this day though it happened when I was maybe seven years old – it was my introduction to the seriousness of “using the Lord’s name in vain.” My older brother and I were roughhousing in our family room and at some point he grabbed my ankle and twisted. Involuntarily, the words came rushing out in that flash of pain, “Oh, God! My foot!”
What did you just say?
My parents were in the next room finishing with dinner and doing the dishes. But hearing that, all activity stopped with a gasp – not so much because of concern for my foot, but because of what they had heard just come out of my mouth. My father peered into the family room and asked sternly, “What did you just say?”
My brother, seeing the seriousness of the situation, tried to defend me. “It’s because he hears all the other kids in the neighborhood talking like that, Daddy.”
My father then took me to the back bedroom. I don’t remember getting a spanking (I might have, but I got a lot of them those days.) But I do remember “the talk” about using the Lord’s name in vain.
We call on God not as part of a yelp of pain or blast of emotion or for dramatic effect; we call on God when we want to get His attention, reverently, in prayer. I can’t just parrot what other kids who might not know the Lord are saying. I need to train and retrain my mind so that even when words come out of my heart involuntarily or in a flash of uncontrolled expression, my words will still be such that keep God’s name in proper reverence.
A few years later, some of the kids my age snuck away with some cigarettes they’d stolen from their parents and lit them up. They invited me to join in. As I recall, I didn’t, but I came home with the smell of smoke on me, alerting my parents to the need for “a talk.”