Move Your ". . . but . . ."

Rose Jackson ©9/21/2000
(Roller coasters make me queasy, but I can and do have fun on this one. Can you find Ethan and me?)
Yet another post on the power of truth. This is more or less my signature message.

“Yes, Mom, but . . . ”
“I will, Dad, but . . .”

Every parent knows these phrases are actually kid-speak for “No.” ” Yes, . . . but . . . ” is camouflage meant to disguise, “I don’t want to, and this is why. . . .” or “I won’t, and this is why. . . .” The little word “but” is a simple conjunction and a powerful word we use to negate and contrast. Significantly and subliminally, it shapes our thoughts and attitudes, raises our emotional fists for a fight, and rationalizes our bad behavior. More dangerously, “but” can place a gate in the way of God’s blessings and our intimacy with him. ” . . . but . . . ” dismisses whatever comes before it and zeros in our emphasis and focus on what comes after it. Our “but-s” become our priority and overshadow everything else. Our “but –s” get in the way of our peace and contentment and even living faith-full lives.

Though I knew this intuitively as a parent, I never recognized the power of this little word in my own life until one day when I was complain – I mean, explaining to the Lord why I was feeling so unhappy with my circumstances:“Yes, we have friends here, BUT all the other people I care about are all the way across the country.” No thunderous voice rang out from the heavens, but I heard distinctly in my mind a soft “Ahem,” followed by a firm, “You need to move your but.” Startled, I instinctively cried out loud, “What? What did you say? Was . . . was that you, God?”

A settled spot in my spirit told me it was God’s Spirit speaking to me. Once I recovered from my initial shock and confusion, I slowly realized that both halves of my complaint were true, but I was focusing on the second phrase and disregarding the first. Where I put my “. . . but . . . ” profoundly influenced my attitude. It determined whether I would be grateful or miserable, agitated or at peace, doubting or believing. I understood that I had a choice to make. I had the liberty to choose where I would put my “. . . but . . .,” my focus, my attitude, and, as a result, my faith.

All that truth bundled itself up in one simple shift: “You need to move your but . . . ” !

Examine my complaint again and see the difference one small shift makes: “All the other people I care about are clear across the country, but we have good friends here.”

In any circumstance, usually more than one thing is true. Even in the worst of circumstances, one of those truths is always God’s positive truth. Changing what comes after my “but” to God’s truth – to what is in my situation working for good – puts my focus on what I have, rather than on what I lack. It shows me God’s faithfulness when things aren’t going the way I expect or want. It makes my priority what is eternally true, rather than what’s of fleeting value. Maybe you can identify with one of my examples:

From: I know you’re doing good things in my friend’s life to show her you love her, BUT she doesn’t recognize them.
To: I know my friend doesn’t recognize them, BUT I know you’re doing good things in her life to show her you love her.

From: I know I should and can respond with love, BUT he always talks to me so sarcastically.
To: He talks to me so sarcastically, BUT I should and can respond with love.

From: We do have a roof over our heads, BUT it’s one repair after another lately.
To: It’s one repair after another lately, BUT we do have a roof over our heads.

From: I know you have a plan for good, God, BUT I certainly don’t understand how this fits in that plan.
To: I don’t understand how this fits in your plan, God, BUT I know you have a plan for good.

Do you see the difference? If I move my BUT in front of what’s true and positive, my focus will follow. Think that semantic shift doesn’t really change anything? Oh, yes, it powerfully does! That move re-directs my thoughts and attitudes, and my thoughts and attitudes influence how I live out my day.

“Okay,” you say, “that’s great, but (there’s a . . . but . . . ) you don’t understand how bad my situation is. What if the only truth I have is negative? What if I don’t have anything positive to move my BUT in front of?” Hey, I have some pretty stinky things going on in my life, so I understand where you’re coming from. The truth is, life is sometimes downright awful, BUT the truth is also that we always have a true and positive “. . . but . . .” to make our priority and focus. I just learned I have no cartilage and such bad arthritis and bone spurs in my right wrist that I need hand surgery, and my left wrist will soon follow suit. Genetics strikes again! BUT my doctor and physical therapist are amazed that I have such mobility and strength in my right hand. Do you think it matters to my attitude and in my daily walk where I put that . . . but . . . ?

If you think there can’t possibly be a positive . . . but . . . in what you’re facing, just look at these BUT’s in the Bible:

“. . . BUT you are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, who lifts up my head.”
Psalm 3:3

“. . . BUT the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.”
Psalm 9: 18

“. . . BUT those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
Isaiah 40: 31

“. . . BUT I (Jesus) will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16: 22

“. . . BUT take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

What I hear Jesus saying when he contrasts and asserts, “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you . . . .” is, “Life may seem like this, but with me in the picture, it’s actually like this . . . .” Jesus -all he means and does and is – is the positive truth that’s always in every circumstance and relationship in my life!

Feel free to appropriate any of these but-s for your own life today! Try a little experiment. First, think about something that’s bugging you or putting a negative focus on your life. Look for a positive truth there, too, and flip those two truths in that circumstance in your life. Next, dare to claim one of Jesus’ . . . but . . . ‘s for what seems impossible or unlivable:

It’s true that __________________________, but _______________________________.

Jesus, you know that ____________ is ______________ in my life today, BUT I know that you promise ___________________

Oh, my family would tell you what a pain I have frequently been in my “but-s” and their lives. The great news is that we can stop being pains in and creating pains from our “but-s.” Once we see this truth and are willing to move in a faith-affirming direction, the Holy Spirit can remind us to move our “but-s” away from negative, destructive thoughts and attitudes that hold us in bondage,and move our “but-s” in front of God’ unchanging truth. I know God wants that peace, liberty,and joy for all of us. Ask him today to show you where you need to move your “but,” then expect and experience a liberating change!

Heavenly Father, I see I’ve been focusing on ________________ instead of on all that you are, all that you do for me, and all that you promise to do in me. Show me your truth and promise in this area of my life, too. I want to live in liberty,hope, faith, victory, compassion, passion, and love. Thank you for helping me move my “but” in your direction today! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

And nothing but the truth?

“But it’s the truth . . . .” After God’s gentle “Ahem . . . ” this morning, I realize that, just because something is true about another person, I don’t need to “dwell on” it. I’ve been repenting of harboring resentment against my husband (and thanking God for bringing up those things I need to repent of) and this morning the Holy Spirit reminded me of Philippians 4:8 : “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, pure, lovely, of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

In inspiring Paul, God didn’t stop at “Whatever is true . . . think on these things,” because focusing our thoughts on something and justifying our dwelling there only because it is true, can be a hurtful, harmful thing. Do I want God to remember what is true about me? Yes, but . . . not the truth that I can be resentful, not the truth that I thought uncharitably about my neighbor yesterday, not the truth that I have been overly concerned about my gray hair . . . . I want God to dwell on the truth that I am his, saved by grace, the righteousness of God because of Jesus. I’m sure that’s why God told me (us) to press on beyond just the true to think of what is lovely, honorable, pure, and right about other people.

Case in point (and isn’t God good to give me a fresh example of what he’s telling me): this morning Chip asked why I put a yard sale sticker on the red ice chest that he’s commented has very user-unfriendly handles. He asserted, “I hope you aren’t getting rid of it just because I said I don’t like it, and then you’ll complain that I was the reason you got rid of something you use.” I replied that I could use our better ice chest, so selling this one was fine. Lurking in my thoughts, of course, was the truth that years ago he’d basically given away my Aunt’s white cast iron patio chair, table and love seat without so much as a questioning glance my way, just because he thought it “wouldn’t survive our move.”

That is true. It is also true that he was thoughtless: he didn’t give a thought to my feelings or desires. We’ve covered that ground and he apologized, sort of (or so it sounded to me!) and I forgave him (sort of? Did I truly?). But it’s also something he did that he can’t undo no matter how hard he wished he could. It is true, and I could have brought it up in reply (retort?), but focusing on that truth would have condemned him all over again and started an argument, dragging a past conflict in to spoil today. There are other truths about him that I could and would do better to dwell on: he moved back here because of me, he painted the kitchen while I was in Hong Kong last year and remodeled the laundry room while I was in Thailand this year, he thinks about me every day, he bought me roses for our anniversary, he’s generous to others, he’s a creative problem-solver . . . . lots of positive, pure, honorable, excellent, praise-worthy truths I could think on.

This fits hand-in-glove with “. . . love keeps no record of wrongs. “ (1 Corinthians 13:5). Wrongs other people have done to me are facts, that’s true – at least assuming I didn’t mis-take their intentions. But those wrongs aren’t the whole truth about anyone. A record is something that can be written, but in “ancient times” three decades ago, a record was also a flat vinyl disc with grooves cut into it which created sound by transmitting vibration with amplification. A record was something you played over and over again because you liked the sound it produced – “Groovy!” But how many times do I replay a record of another person’s wrongs simply because, for some perverse reason, I enjoy the sound? Not groovy – grievous,and I’m sure it grieves the Holy Spirit when I/we do.

I desperately need to relate to others out of more than “nothing but the truth.” Do you, too? I suspect God is just waiting for us to ask him to show us more than what is true about the people we know and love. Here’s a request you might like to ask God along with me:

Jesus, help me today. Cut new grooves in the vinyl of my mind with truths that are true AND pure, honorable, right, lovely, excellent, and praise-worthy, and help me to replay those things so I build others up rather than tear them down, destroying precious relationships and lives in the process. Thank you that you’re moving me in healthy directions to bring healing, restoration, and goodness to the lives I touch. Thank you, Jesus, for touching me with your true, pure, honorable, lovely, excellent, praise-worthy love. Amen!

copyright Rose Jackson 5/22/08 You may share this with others, but you may not reproduce or quote this without permission of the author. Same goes for all previous posts – share, just don’t use for profit.