“Thus says the LORD: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt.
On that day, says the LORD, She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.”
I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.” – Hosea 2:16-18, 21-22
I love the prophet Hosea. I’ve said it before, I know, but every time I hear this reading I fall in love all over again. I relate to his words more than just about any other prophet; Hosea’s words have the power to stop me dead in my tracks.
I’ve had Hosea 2:16 plastered on a wall in every room I’ve ever lived in since high school. I am pretty sure I cried the first time I read it because it speaks so perfectly to my relationship with God. Yet somehow it wasn’t until recently that I realized I relate so intimately to this story because I am the harlot. For those of you that don’t know the story, God calls the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot named Gomer. Hosea loves Gomer and yet Gomer is continually unfaithful. It is through this marriage that God uses Hosea to explain His love for His children. We are God’s beloved; He is passionately, wildly, madly in love with us and yet we are continually unfaithful. I love this story because when I’m in a relationship (and when I’m single, but more clearly when I’m in a relationship) I can see quite clearly how our human love, imperfect though it may be, is a metaphor of God’s love for us.
I have a harlot’s heart. I have this horrid tendency to throw my heart where it doesn’t belong, to give it away to people and to things that will never fully satisfy me. (Read also eating my Words for more on this topic.) I read the writings of the prophet Hosea and wonder how Gomer could be so silly, so clueless. How could she not see the great and passionate love that Hosea has for her? Why is that not enough for her? Then I think, “Hello Mr. 2-by-4, please smack me upside my head.” I am Gomer. In my rational, calm moments I know and see how passionately the God of the Universe loves me, just as I am, messy, sinful, and yet He finds me beautiful. He wants to espouse me forever, and not only does He want to marry me, He wants to marry me in right and in justice, in love and in mercy. Unfortunately I let my pride get the best of me, I foolishly think that I could get more love or be more satisfied somewhere else.
So God, in His wonderous love, lets me go. He lets me wander in the desert. He lets me follow after my desires, all the while knowing their destructive end will come. I imagine God sitting on His heavenly throne looking down at me, time and time again thinking, “We’ve been down this road before, My child. Don’t you see yet? My love is all you will ever need.” Still somewhere in my heart I respond, “Yes, but this road looks a little different from before, can’t You see? I have Your love, but I want more.” Foolish, silly harlot heart. Don’t you know? Don’t you get it yet? The day will come when you will return and say, “I will go back to my first husband, for I was better off then than now” (Hos. 2:9). Every. Single. Time.
There He waits. He waits for my heart in love. He waits for my heart in mercy, He waits to wash my harlot’s heart clean in His mercy. He knows it is coming back to Him, it always does. He, like the patient lover that He is (and, oh, that I were that patient) waits for my heart, knowing that I need, yet again, to test His love for me. He knows His love will pass the test, after all, His love has conquered sin and death. He knows what I have yet to truly learn: His love is all I will ever need. Though I have a harlot’s heart, though I test and push His love for me, His love remains constant and true, waiting to pursue me, to call me back to Himself, both now and forever.
“Our desert journeys – whether brief or long, intense or moderate – and reflection on the desert can help us not only to survive but also to see the deep possibilities for enriched life in our own personal deserts.
The desert is silent and elicits silence – a silence that attunes us to a new range of hearing. And if we are to hear the word out of the depths of our own spirit, we must be quiet enough to attend. Silence attunes us to all dimensions of the world.
The desert is a place of solitude and invites me to go into myself and thus to enter into the ground, the basis of relationships. Such solitude opens in me a more profound capacity for true communion. In the Scriptures God repeatedly speaks to leaders in their solitude, preparing them for deeper communion both with God and with their people.
The desert in its stark terrain is utterly simple, and it calls me to strip off veneers and pretensions – elimination of the unnecessary – to come to a much more profound appreciation of the gift of life and all that really sustains it…In each instance – silence, solitude, simplicity – my relation to God is opened and deepened, my capacity for relation to others is expanded and enriched, and I come to much greater self-knowledge and personal freedom. Thus, as we have said so often: the desert blooms.” – Sr. Jeremy Hall
Let us rejoice in the desert, for it is there that God prepares our heart for His work and it is there that He calls us back to the depths of His infinite love for us.
What I’m Listening To:
“You Were On The Cross” – Matt Maher
“Flesh and Bone” – Matt Maher
“I Will Rise” – Chris Tomlin
“Jesus Messiah” – Chris Tomlin