Do not take God’s name in vain. That’s one of the ten commandments that God gave to the Israelites this week. When I was growing up people said that this means you can’t say “oh my god” because it means “oh my God” and that is taking God’s name in vain. So for a long time I taught my kids that it was not okay to say “oh my g/God”. It might offend people. Of course, when I’m pleasantly surprised, or suddenly frightened, I always say “oh my god” and for years felt just a twinge of guilt. Because of course I would not want to take God’s name in vain.
Then I was listening to someone speak. It was a woman that I have very little respect for, so I was not expecting to hear anything of great value. But she surprised me. Pleasantly. She said that a rabbi explained what it means to take God’s name in vain. It has nothing to do with an innocent “oh my god”. Taking God’s name in vain means doing something with intention and doing it with the understanding that it is being done for God. Doing it with the belief and understanding that God would want it done. Like flying airplanes into buildings because it’s what God wants. That is taking God’s name in vain. That is clearly not what my God wants.
So now I say “oh my god” and barely feel any guilt at all. And I don’t stop my kids when they say it (most of the time). I do cringe just a bit and worry about offending someone. But then I try to remind myself that “oh my god” can sometimes be “oh my God”….since maybe the cool and surprising things in my life are not a complete coincidence. Maybe God had a little something to do with it and I’m just noticing and celebrating the attention.