"The first time God spoke to Hosea he said, 'Find a whore and marry her. make this whore the mother of your children...'"
I've spent a lot of time in the story of Hosea throughout my life. There is something so heartbreaking, and so powerful, wrapped up in every thread of this story. This man, ordinary Hosea, hears God ask something gut wrenching of him and he does it. God's request isn't a one time thing. It isn't just a simple message delivered to a stubborn people. In a lot of ways, Jonah's mission was a thousand time easier than Hosea's was. Jonah just had to deliver a message. Hosea had to give his life away to the message.
A few days ago I read Hosea 1:2 again and I was so struck by the first seven words...
The first time Hosea heard the voice of God... The first time God broke through the muck of life to whisper directly into Hosea's heart and ears. The very first time... and God asks him to give his heart, his life, his commitment, and his hope of a healthy and whole family to a prostitute. He asks him to seek out a woman who has made a living out of disconnecting her heart from her life. We don't know Gomer's story. We don't know what led her to prostitution, or what kept her running back to it, but we do know our own stories and, I don't know about you, but something about her fearful running resonates for me.
I keep wondering if I would be so obedient. But then I know that I would. I would because I have been. I would because God's request, though painful, has meaning. Pressing into the hard things has never destroyed me. Showing up in my marriage, with my children, in my depression, in rejection and desperation is only healing me.
Sometimes I'm Hosea in my story. Sometimes I cling to God's request - even when it costs me everything. Sometimes I'm Gomer - caught between my shame and my longing for abundance. The thing is - every single time God's way is stirring me up. His hand plunges into the dark recesses of my heart and all of the shit that had settled to the bottom comes swirling to the surface. I'm faced, like Gomer, with my own shame, dysfunction, sad choices, and heartbreak. But Jesus, he is my Hosea. He draws me away from the lure to return to who I once was. He draws me into deserts to refresh me, into heartbreak to heal me, into waiting to speak to me.
He simply draws me.
Sometimes God's requests are hard to respond to. Sometimes they seem daunting, debilitating, or crushing. Sometimes we want to reason our way out of obedience - maybe we want to scour scripture for something we can use to justify saying NO.
You know what though? I'm so glad Hosea said YES. I'm so glad he responded to God the first time he heard his voice. I'm so glad he pursued Gomer, and walked a real and transparent road with her. I'm so glad his story sits between the pages of my Bible. I'm so glad because I have found comfort, forgiveness, conviction, and life in that one book. I see him struggling. I see his heart breaking. I see Gomer in all of her humanity and frailty. I see us all. There we are - drawn between the lines of Hosea and Gomer's story. There we are in God's redemption plan.
We can be glad for our stories too. We can be glad for the times God has drawn us into wilderness to rescue us, or asked us to do unbearably hard things. He has always known our stories. Not one plot twist has surprised or offended him. He is unashamed of us. He's still writing, and whispering, and drawing us out.
Not one story need be lost to shame. We're still living it out. We're still showing up to hard things, being transformed in deserts, and hearing the voice of God asking for a YES.