Somewhere, along the way, I started thinking of the word “but” as an erasure. Add “but” to any statement, and everything before it disappears…
“I think you’re really great, but...”
“I really appreciate the gesture, but…”
“Thanks for the kind offer, but…”
“I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but…”
“I’m sorry, but…”
Often, as soon as the “but” shows up, you know the jab is coming…
“…, but you’re just not my type.”
“…, but it’s just not good enough.”
“…, but I’m not interested.”
“… but I think you’re a jerk.”
“… but you deserved it.”
Etc., etc., etc. “But” always seems to be followed by criticism, complaint, or rejection.
I need to confess, I’ve been saying a lot of “but” prayers lately.
“Lord, I know you are good, but…”
“Lord, I know you are in control, but…”
“Lord, I know I should trust you, but…”
It occurred to me, this morning, that the Biblical writers often reversed the “but.” Often, in Scripture, the “but” follows the negative, instead of the positive. Throughout the Psalms, for example, the negative precedes the “but,” followed by hope and trust in God…
“My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 13:4-5)
“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
“For I hear many whispering, ‘Terror on every side!’ They conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.'” (Psalm 31:13-14)
“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:10)
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
I’ve always appreciated that Scripture allows for lament. Lament is a raw, honest, human form of prayer. Lament cries out to God in anger, pain, anguish and despair. Lament, often, is a complaint to God, against God, about perceived unfairness. Lament, sometimes, even blames God for the complaint.
There are times, we all need to lament. I’m thankful God is graciously willing and able to receive our laments, even when they are less than kind, respectful, or faith-filled, without holding our complaints against us.
In the wake of recent events, I’ve been lamenting a lot. “But,” my laments have been mostly ranting and raving, without a lot of faith or hope. What my laments have been missing is the properly placed “but.”
“…, but I will trust in you.”