Sometimes I won’t read my Bible because I don’t want to know what it says. Sometimes I won’t read my Bible because I know exactly what it says and I don’t want to hear it.
His Words. Breathing against my heart. Against my pain, my injustices, my sin and hardness.
So often we expect an indictment. We let the book we once treasured sit out of sight.
You know, it’s not an easy thing–living vulnerable and honest. When the dents and bruises, the wear-and-tear of life, accumulate we develop a callous around our heart. A thickness of anger, disappointment and even offense that serves a purpose. We go inside ourselves and live behind varying shades of bitterness. All appears normal because we still make lunches and professions, sit in carpool and the church pew. All the while discontent is raging.
And so we leave His Words on the shelf or the night stand on in the backseat.
A few weeks ago I pulled His Words out from under the stack of other books on my nightstand. I actually felt a ripple of anxiety because I need the Words to save me from my self and what if somehow they don’t? I turned to Hosea…prophet of God instructed to marry a whore…this unbelievable picture of God chasing the adulterous human race. This completely shattering explanation of grace.
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets or roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt”
Hosea 2:14-15, The Message
I couldn’t read past. Couldn’t gloss over the idea of God courting us. Courting me. This wooing God who is always willing to start again, to patiently and gently reveal Himself in ways that tempt us to believe…to want more…to hope. Here’s the thing. She wasn’t searching for God. She was running, legs pumping, straight for her lover, directly into sin and pain and death. It’s not as if God kindly received her in His mercy. No, He chased her when she didn’t even want Him.
I closed the Words that day. Wiped a random tear away and placed my book on the nightstand. It wasn’t the earth-shattering move-of-the-Spirit I’d been trained to expect. It was somehow sweeter.
Because I didn’t know when I would pick up my book again. I didn’t make any promises to Him or myself that it would happen again the next day. Yet for those few moments He was courting me in my wilderness…piercing my shell…making me want to be loved by Him.
This morning, sitting alone on my porch swing, I am again courted by Great Romantic. I read the rest of Hosea. I see Heartbroken Creator burn with justice yet unwilling to let go. I read these last words of Hosea and I cry. I cry tears my hard heart has hidden, held in check, because it’s scary to live vulnerable and honest.
“I will heal their waywardness.
I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out.
I will make a fresh start with Israel.
He’ll put down deep oak tree roots,
he’ll become a forest of oaks!
He’ll become splendid–like a giant sequoia,
his fragrance like a grove of cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him,
be blessed and prosper like golden grain.
Everyone will be talking about them,
spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods.
From now on I’m the one who answers and satisfies him.
I am like a luxuriant fruit tree.
Everything you need is to be found in me.”
Waywardness is truly just the raging symptom of a sick heart. We need this lavish God-love to grow and thrive but sometimes the bruises and hurts of life…the disappointments, confusions, regrets…tempt us to withdraw and push away. We call sin-symptoms the disease and say repentance is the cure.
A misdiagnosis if ever there has been one.
We live soul-sick because we are malnourished. Because we are Love deficient.
We wander and rage and grasp because we desperately need safe and perfect love. We catch a glimpse from Creator but feel undeserving and reject The Courting. We resist the cure because how can this be?
Yet only one thing can heal us.
So I read of Hosea’s whoring wife on my swing. I read of Israel’s fickle romantic history. I read myself.
Weaving throughout is the thing I need most and can hardly accept. Except I must.
He comes for us. Chases us. God turns us to face Him–if only for a moment.
I love you, child. I love you, I love you.
He courts us with relentless restraint because He knows we must experience grace and lavish love in our ugliest places to ever really believe it. To be changed and healed by it.
I would like to grow deep oak tree roots. Become splendid like a giant sequoia. Have the real thing–a vintage life.
Live like Golden Grain.