putting the holy in “holy $#$!”

Last week, my husband and I had an exchange that went as follows:

[open door to fridge; something falls on my foot]
Me: %&*^&%
Husband: [stares at me, shakes head slightly, eyes twinkling and trying to suppress a smile]
[two other things also fall out–apparently need to clean fridge]
Me: Seriously, for #$^$ sake.
Husband: [bursts out laughing; gives me sympathetic hug]

note: this is annoying, partly because he’s laughing at me, and also because I am fairly sure he’s the one who put the stuff in the fridge like this in the first place.

a more reverent approach to the refrigerator?

a more reverent approach to the refrigerator?

The thing is, I’ve been a pretty prolific curser for my entire adult life.  Since before that, in fact.  And C and I have been together for about 15 years now.  Past a certain age, the f-word, standing on its own, just isn’t that funny anymore.  Except that it suddenly is, right now, in my house–at least when it comes out of my mouth.


After weeks of snickering and sympathetic pats on the head, I finally pressed my husband on this point . . . and the explanation he came up with was “holiness juxtaposition.”  Which means, as far as I can tell, that I am supposed to be nicer, or that someday we at least hope I will be nicer, but right now I am not.  Thus, the sheer size of the space between this expectation and my current reality is hilarious.

And I get that.  Sort of.  I don’t feel in any way ministerial . . . and there’s no reason I would.  Not yet.  (Maybe not ever.  I am trying to just go with this whole thing and see what happens, but honestly, I am so baffled to find myself on this path that a lot of times it makes me want to say . . . well . . . something sort of like %&^$!)

In the meantime, though, my husband is obviously making some mental adjustments.  And it’s not that they’re bothering him . . . on the contrary, he seems delighted.  In this most recent example, he explained, “you should definitely keep cussing; I like it.  It makes me feel better about my own failings.  [laughing] And if ministry doesn’t work out, you could be a sailor.  Or a truck driver.  Or . . . [nearly bent double from hysterics] a bail bondsman.” Current amusement aside, though, this does make me wonder: what happens if I surprise both of us and actually turn into a minister over the next few years?

The label and identity clearly carry some weight and change expectations even from the person who knows me best.  Does that matter?  If you’re a minister, are you a minister all the time?  Or do you just play one on tv?

I wonder about this partly because it disturbs me to have my brain and personality fundamentally altered, however much those changes are needed (and they are.  I acknowledge this.)  I also wonder because I like being a partner–being, that is, my flawed, vulnerable and human self–with my husband.  And I’d like to stay married to him, his fridge storage methods notwithstanding.

I have given some thought to the seminary process and how it might change me, and how those changes affect my primary relationships .  .  . but now I’m wondering about the ministerial role itself.  Is it a hat you wear?  Or is it something essential to the core of your being?

All this reminds me of the writer Andrew Corsello, who makes it a point to tell his wife, Dana, who is an Episcopal priest, “Girl, you put the ‘ho’ in ‘holy’.”  Over several essays, Corsello writes about his own take on the holiness juxtaposition that Craig now finds so hilarious . . . Corsello himself has at times found it smothering–a threat to his own self image, to his marriage.  (This essay provides Corsello’s overview of the situation.  The quote above is taken from a longer piece, “The Angel and the Skank,” which ran in Wondertime magazine years ago.  That essay is much more about parenthood, and how it might allow us to rise, miraculously, to more than is expected of us, but is a worthwhile read–simultaneously gritty and gorgeous.  Wondertime’s interests are now held by Disney, which has CleanFlixed the original quote, but you’ll remember it.)

I’m sure this is one of those things without a clear answer . . . but for those partnered folks in ministry, or who are in the process of entering ministry: has adding a religious identity to your spousal one been weird?  Is it hard to balance, and does it fundamentally alter to the texture of your marriage?  Or are you simply yourself, but moreso?

For my part, I will keep you posted, but I would love to hear more from anyone who can advise in the meantime.  As would, I’m sure, my husband.  🙂


4 thoughts on “putting the holy in “holy $#$!”

  1. Our minister has cursed in front of me (thankfully, not *at* me), but only in one-on-one meetings. I think you are safe at home!!! [Interesting, Amy! I’ve never seen a UU minister curse. Ours . . .cough . . .certainly doesn’t . . .ahem. I actually originally posed these questions to her in an e-mail; that became this post. In response, she assured me that UU seminarians also do not curse, and that the language at ministerial gatherings is Disney-ready. I think that’s what she said, anyway . . . 😉 j]

  2. I think it’s a little of both, just like any other job. I am a photographer, even when my camera is at home. I see and analyze light and visual beauty. It’s just harder for other people to tell when there’s no camera in my hand. As a pink-haired, tattooed mother, people see one thing when my children are with me and another when I’m alone. But I am myself, and not the hats (nor the hair) that I wear.

    The language we use is a little different, of course, and I have –much to my surprise– found my own habits changing somewhat in the past year or so, but the point stands. We in our imperfections are nevertheless perfect for the life we have right now. Life is a river, and we can be the water, flowing tirelessly along our path, and yet changing it slowly into a deep canyon; or we can be the riverbed, twisting and turning, providing space for the water of life to flow, being molded and changed by it as time passes. Either way, there is change, and yet the river is the same. [and now I am going to have Peter Mayer stuck in my head for the rest of the day 🙂 . . . -j]

  3. I don’t know about ministry, but I experienced something a bit like this when I was getting my Masters in Teaching. They spent so much time getting us to discern and unpack our own biases and privilege, and purge ourselves of habits of language that were less than fully inclusive, and examine how we presented ourselves physically and verbally and if we had any distracting habits that would detract from learning and … and … I would rebel and just want to go home and smoke a cigarette or curse or wear an inappropriate and distracting Tshirt. In the end I feel more comfortable being a “role model” and still being a real person at the same time, but being turned into a role model was uncomfortable. [I think I find the process of being turned into anything somewhat uncomfortable. Even when it’s for the better, I never am that excited about changing myself. And I laughed at the t-shirt thing . . . between my husband’s fraternity days and the slightly odd sense of humor of the Student Bar Association at my law school, I have quite a few “can’t wear this in public” tees . . . and it does always feel a bit “bad girl” to throw one on. I’m such a rebel, vacuuming the house in my Floyd’s Bar Flies tee. Not. -j]

  4. Pingback: Spiritual practice and community, justice, reproductive rights, and more « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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