“But For God”
“But For God”
October should be a special month for me. I am not much of a birthday celebrater, but usually use this month as a time of reflection on the journey Yvette and I have traveled over the years. We often think about our beginnings—how we were raised, various traumas that impacted our worldview—and about the many people both good and marginal that influenced our lives. Some have passed on, but the lessons learned remain with us. As we look back and anticipate the future, our first expression is: “But for God.” We remind ourselves that “But for God” our firstborn would not have survived. “But for God” my wife would not have lived through her childhood. “But for God” I would not have missed a gang member’s bullet which hit a friend in the seat next to me.
The places we have traveled, the things we have done, the people we have served stretched far beyond our abilities and circumstances. The consistency of the guidance and deliverance could never be labelled coincidence, nor the incidental outcomes be labelled happenstance. Sometimes we get so busy trying to prove ourselves that we forget the source of our strength and wisdom; the doors that were opened and shut, the failures and successes, the challenges and disappointments, and patience required to endure: “But for God.”
When we stop and consider the past before stepping into the future, our hearts activate thanksgiving. We wonder how we ever got where we are or have gone where we’ve been. We remember the promises in the scripture and again realize God’s faithfulness to those committed to serving others despite the cost.
Years ago, African parents of two students of ours traveled to the USA for their youngest daughter’s graduation. They brought with them the gift of a wood-carved stool which they communicated was the type of seating for a tribal chief. They wanted to thank Yvette and me for being the surrogate parents for their daughters during their time in the states. We received the art and on occasion I would sit on the stool, which was always visible in our living area. We moved to several places over the years including Fresno, always transporting this tremendous piece of artwork to adorn our home.
One of our first guests at the president’s house was an African man from the Congo. He immediately recognized the stool and asked if we knew the meaning of the sculptured symbol between the base and the seat. We assume it was only art, but he corrected our assumption with the meaning of the symbol: “But for God.” Here we had travelled many places using the phrase in our testimony, never realizing that the message had been sitting in front of us for over a decade. Now that we know its meaning, it is a reminder that despite all that happens in the world But for God, we find our peace. This lends thanksgiving to our hearts despite trouble in our lives.
Let’s remind ourselves of the source of peace and strength; patience and endurance; success and possibilities that fill our lives with thanksgiving for knowing that “But for God.”