“When the Lord first began to speak to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, ‘Go and marry a prostitute … So Hosea married Gomer …” (Hosea 1:2,3)
My favorite kind of love story is one of pursuit and passion … in which someone is running and someone is chasing. I love them. My favorite movie ever is Pride and Prejudice, because Elizabeth is such a fool for running from Mr. Darcy and he’s such a fool for running after her, but he does it because he loves her, “most ardently!” (I just melted a little thinking of him saying that to her … you can see it in his eyes, he loves her from the depths of himself.) I guess I love these stories so much because it takes a true kind of love for someone to pursue someone else who doesn’t seem in the least bit interested in being caught. Hosea’s relationship with his wife is just like that: she couldn’t stay with him to save her life and he wouldn’t let her go. She bore children in their home that he named “Unloved” and “Not Mine”. He was very much aware of her running around on him, because in chapter three, he goes out and gets her from the house of one of her lovers and buys her back to himself. He redeems their marriage with money and then takes her home and continues to love her. What kind of a man is this?
Hosea was a man obedient to God, whose own marriage illustrated the Lord’s love for his children. I’ve been thinking about this story for quite a while, because I see in myself the tendencies of Gomer: that of running away because I do not know how to receive love that is pure and true. I don’t know how many times I have knelt in my floor in repentance and said, “Ah, Lord, I am just like Gomer. How do you still love me?” I have wanted so badly to understand why I run after other lovers, why I chase after people and things that cannot fill me like God can, when I am the bride of the Almighty God and He adores me. The more I dig into my inner thoughts and feelings, the more I dissect my needs and desires, the clearer it becomes: I don’t know how to be loved like that.
The more God loves me, the more aware I am of His intense gaze and His affections toward me, the more terrified I become. And I run! How can I not? All I have ever known of my ability to love someone is that my love is not good enough. All I have received in return for my love and adoration is rejection. I have literally poured myself into loving people only to find myself empty and alone, and time after time I gave everything in me only to find out that it wasn’t enough. I can very much identify with Gomer. She ran from lover to lover, and especially from Hosea, because she didn’t know how to be still under the pressure of an enduring love. He was a father to the children of her adultery, and he pursued her when anyone else would have stoned her. He went so far as to pay a price to bring her home to him even after they were married. He was in it for the long haul and she couldn’t escape his loving embrace.
I find it so wonderful that God is like this. That no matter where we go or what we are chasing, He is still pursuing us. His desire for us trumps our sinfulness and He longs for us. So much so that He is willing at any moment to embrace us again in all of our filthiness, if we are but willing to come home again. Does He deny our disgrace? No, He names it and deals with it like a patient husband. Gomer and Hosea always had with them the evidence of Gomer’s shameful past. Every time he or she beckoned one of her kids, they were reminded of the sins of the past. But they dealt with them and life went on. In the same way, God allows us to know the disgrace of our sins, and sometimes, there are painful reminders of where we have been. But then, life goes on. Nowhere in Hosea does it suggest that Hosea used their children as a weapon against Gomer. He didn’t throw her sin up in her face, he loved her and life went on. Likewise, God does not throw our sin up on our faces. He forgives us and life goes on.
Another thing I have learned through this book is that just because others reject our love does not mean it isn’t good enough. I mean, look at Hosea. His love was obviously more than Gomer could handle. She didn’t know how to accept his love, but that didn’t mean his love was inadequate. Hosea’s love was strong and pure and enduring, and she ran because she didn’t understand the value of what he was giving to her. We have the same tendency when it comes to the Lord. We run and pursue other things because we do not understand the value of His love. More precious than silver and more costly than gold, but then, how many of us really understand the value of gold? Our running away does not nullify the gift offered to us. It only proves that we do not know what precious thing is being offered. We do not fully comprehend, like Gomer did not fully comprehend, that the thing we are running away from is the very thing we are chasing after in the first place. She was looking for a lover who would fulfill her, and all the while, her husband was waiting to do just that. Oh Lord, You are too good for me!
Dearest Heavenly Husband,
I long to be loved by you, but I do not really know how. Your gaze is so penetrating that I feel compelled to run from you. Because Lord, if I stayed, you would see in me that I am unworthy. And because you already know this, I understand your love even less. How do you love me as deeply as you do?
I am afraid to give you all of me because all I have ever known about myself is that I am not good enough. I cannot keep you with my futile efforts to love because I hardly even know what love is anymore.
What I do know is this: your love is enough. It’s more than enough. It’s so good to me that I find it hard to withstand your affections sometimes. Help me to endure your love, and to receive it fully. I want to so badly. Your love overwhelms me, and Lord, I long to be consumed by You. I want to know the intensity of Your gaze and to be able to withstand the pressure of your embrace. I’ve never known a love like Yours and it’s more than I can bear. But I want to. I need it. Give me strength to stay, and hold me when You know I want to run. Thank you for loving me so fiercely. Amen.