It’s a delight to hear from one of our Titus Women teachers, Laurie Hovendick. These are the thoughts she shared with us this week:
Heb. 13:5b: For He, God, Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down, relax My hold on you. Assuredly not! (Amplified Bible)
Throughout the years of my coming to Titus and studying God’s Word together with you, I have found two of my favorite words to be, “But God . . . .” These words are powerful because they are followed by the actions of a powerful God, words that describe God’s incredible, intimate involvement with our lives.
Whatever study you are in this semester, I am sure you’ve encountered those words. For those of us in the Jonah study, we read in Jonah 1:6b, “But Thou (God), has brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.”
For those studying the life of David, Ps. 86:15 says, “But Thou, (God) O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” Ps 139 is a beautiful description of God’s intimate knowledge of us, how He carefully and lovingly made us, knit us together. There is NOTHING that shocks God about us, nothing that surprises Him. NOTHING about us is hidden from Him.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of an experience I had last summer when Lincoln hosted the Special Olympics. My husband’s firm helped with coordinating volunteers from throughout the United States for this event. One evening, they hosted a dinner for several of the dignitaries, including Mr. Shriver and several partners from Kirk’s firm, some from as far away as New York. Also in attendance were the Ambassador Athletes and their families, and the guest speaker.
As it turned out, I was invited to attend, partly because Kirk was helping, and partly because I knew the wife of the guest speaker, and they thought we could sit together. Since I mostly work out of my home, I was a little unsure how to “dress up” for this occasion. After several outfits, I decided on a skirt and called it good. Still, on the drive downtown, I felt the need to pray Prov. 31:30, reminding myself that it wasn’t charm or beauty, but a woman who fears the Lord, who is praised.
When I was first married, I was very insecure, and Kirk helped me to overcome some of that insecurity by coaching me in the importance of eye contact when conversing with people. I kept that in mind as the evening progressed. The dinner conversation went well. The evening was very inspiring, and I was able to meet some very interesting people.
At the end of the dinner, I was standing up front by the stage and podium, speaking to the husband of the partner in charge of this event. I was really trying to concentrate, keeping in mind the importance of eye contact when all of a sudden, in the middle of this conversation, my legs felt cold. I know my eyes had to have been huge and my face pale as I panicked, thinking, “I think my skirt just fell off!”
Thoughts raced through my mind: “Does anyone know?” “What am I exposing?” “What will this man think?” “This is out of my control!” “I’m so humiliated!”
Meanwhile, I tried to keep track of the conversation and maintain eye contact. Those seconds felt like an eternity. Here I was, up front, talking to this important person, and I was exposed! Finally, I had to break eye contact, just for a second, to glance down to see if, indeed, my skirt was at my ankles.
Well, it wasn’t my skirt, but my slip that had fallen off and was pooled around my feet. So, regaining eye contact, nodding my head in what I hoped were all the right places, I stepped out of my slip, now puddled on the floor at my feet, bent down, wadded it up and jammed it in my purse. Later that night, I confessed to Kirk what had happened (fortunately we both laughed at that point), and then I held up my slip. Since I don’t wear dresses and skirts that often, I hadn’t paid attention to how old my slip was. The elastic was so old that it no longer had any flexibility. It just stayed stretched out.
A few days later, I was reading in a book Shereen had shared with me, The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Toward the end of the book, they were discussing meeting God in heaven and what it will be like. I instantly thought back to those few seconds of fear and panic when I thought I was exposed, that everyone saw me naked, that I was standing before someone important and he saw my shame, my embarrassment, my humiliation.
I could relate to this section of the book, how “every hidden thing shall be made known, every word spoken in secret shall be uttered.” My soul shrank back: how will this not be an utter horror?
Oh, how our thoughts of judgment and standing before God are so twisted. To continue from the book, “the popular idea [is] that at some point shortly upon our arrival in heaven, the lights will dim and God will give the signal for the videotape of our entire life to be played before the watching universe: every shameful act, every wicked thought exposed.” It is so easy to picture that.
Then I remember those powerful words, BUT GOD . . .
But God . . .
Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Eph. 2:4-10: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The truth: When we come before God, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We won’t be stripped bare, naked for the universe to gawk at us. God, Himself, will clothe us in white garments. We are His beloved. Our shame, our guilt, our embarrassment, our sin will be fully covered by His righteousness, His forgiveness, His grace, His joy, His peace, His hope.
1 John 1:9 tells us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not only does He cover us with His righteousness but He cleanses us from ALL our unrighteousness! Powerful words. What a friend we have in Jesus, our wonderful, merciful Savior. One who will not, who will not, who will not forsake us.
When for us, it seems impossible, remember, the powerful words and the greater power behind them—BUT GOD . . . .