Words have power. They can influence, discourage, build up, or tear down. They can create emotions like joy, fear, anger, peace, or uncertainty. They can transport you back to reminisce on old memories or allow you to anticipate the future. They can inspire one to greatness or bully someone into despair. Words can both ask for forgiveness and forgive. Words can show love or hate. They can give you all sorts of “feels.”
A few of my favorite words include:
A few words I don’t like are:
However, there is one word that I think changes everything. A simple word. Just three letters. It’s a conjunction. And it contrasts what was previously said. The word is “but.”
I have a friend that often says “I don’t mean to be ugly but….”. I always tease her and say, “Buckle up because ‘but’ means the ugly is coming!” We all say, “Not to be rude but…” which translates to I am about to be rude. Or “I’m not judging but…” well here comes both judge and jury. That one itty bitty word discounts everything that was just said. I do it. We all do.
Yet as a Christian, I love the “buts” that completely transform lives. With Easter tomorrow, the phrase “but God” has been rolling around in my head making me mull over the lives that were turned upside down and sideways because of “but God.” So here a few of my thoughts as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow.
It started with Mary, a young teenage virgin, engaged to a young boy-man, Joseph. She was going about her normal life, maybe helping her family by baking bread, cleaning their home, feeding the livestock, helping with her siblings while preparing for her wedding. Maybe she was sewing, knitting, or weaving domestic items to prepare her soon to be marriage. Suddenly an angel appears and tells her she is going to have a baby, and not just any baby. The son of God. WHAT? Who would ever believe that cockamamie story? No one. Not even Joseph. Until an angel appeared to him as well. This was a gigantic BUT GOD! He totally flipped this young couple’s plans, yet they faithfully trusted Him and they became the parents of the Son of God. He took two young, faithful Jewish teenagers and rocked their world in an unbelievable way.
How about Simon Peter? He was a common fisherman, an ordinary guy, seemingly impulsive, and maybe a bit brash. He was the one who cut off the ear of the soldier who was arresting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also was the one who denied knowing Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested. How could he follow so closely to Jesus for three years, listening to Him teach, studying His ways and then declare he did not know Him? Not once. Not twice. But three times. I’m guessing it was fear. I imagine after Simon Peter heard the crow caw, he was ashamed. Deeply and bitterly remorseful. We know Peter wept. To me, wept emotes the concept of crying to the point of mourning (or joy). It signifies an emotion that is palpable. You feel it in the depths of your soul. So what happened to this disciple who walked and talked with Jesus and later denied knowing Him? It’s certainly a but God story. He denied Jesus but God later used him to lead thousands to Him. He was temperamental but God used Him mightily until he was martyred for Christ’s sake. He didn’t deny Jesus again. He was a loud, boisterous, crass fisherman but God changed him to a humble, obedient fisher of man.
Don’t forget about Mary Magdalene, a woman who had seven demons in her which Jesus cast out. Imagine living with demons controlling your body and mind… talk about mental health issues. Dr Phil would have done a TV show about this woman. But God had other plans for her. After Jesus healed her, she followed Him without hesitation. She was present at His death and burial, and Jesus Himself talked to her on Easter morning when she found the empty tomb. He took a woman who was filled with demons giving her life a total metamorphosis. She was a true example of a life changed.
The thief on the cross is a great but God testimony. Jesus was an innocent man being punished next to two guilty men. One mocked him yet the other recognized that there was something different about Jesus. Something he wanted. Something he asked for. He deserved punishment for his crime but God showed mercy, knowing that his heart was repentant and his belief was genuine. Even in Jesus’ darkest moment of pain and sorrow, there was still something in Him that stood out to that thief. Now that is a great but God story as I believe that thief gained eternal life as he drew his final breath.
Not to mention the leper’s, the blind, the lame, the bleeding, the woman at the well, the rich man’s daughter, the deaf and mute man, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, the women caught in adultery, and the list can go on and on. People who Jesus met where they were, and they experienced but God moments that altered the course of their lives.
My favorite but God story is the one we celebrate this weekend. Good Friday is the day we remember what Jesus did for us. He endured unbelievable suffering from being beaten more times than one human could bear to having a crown of thorns jammed deeply into His head, afterwards being forced to carry His cross in His weakened, bloody state. Then He was nailed to a cross all while people who recently followed Him now mocked Him. He took all of our sins and shame and guilt onto His body willingly… He agreed to do it. He gave up life in Heaven with His father to do this. He gave up His kingship to become a human. His deep love for us held Him on that cross! Crazy. Unbelievable. Incredible.
But God didn’t end the story there. Yes, Jesus died on Friday but God knew what was coming on Sunday. The tomb was empty and Heaven rejoiced. Jesus arose because death was not the end. It was just the beginning. Because if we believe that Jesus died and then arose from the dead, if we repent from our sins and trust in His forgiveness, we will have our own but God story. Once we believe in the truth of both His death and resurrection, we are promised eternal life in Heaven. Are you ready for your but God moment? Are you up for a radical transformation that will flip your world upside down? Because He will!