Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Love Story Week 7: unfaithful wife, unfailing husband

This week Dennis and I celebrated 35 years of marriage.  35 isn't particularly a landmark anniversary, but for us it felt significant.  A line of demarkation between life with kids at home and, very recent for us, life together, just the two of us again.

When you are newly married, love is romantic and adventurous, alternately awkward and breathtaking.  Then comes the long stretch of raising kids, putting down roots, slugging it out in the daily stuff—linked up, but less like lovers and more like Power Rangers.  After 35 years, love is deep as it is daily, faithful and knowing. And if you are very lucky, still romantic and adventurous.

Life with Dennis Worley has always been an adventure.  It still is.  An adventure I'm always willing to take, because he is the surest, steadiest, most faithful person I know.  At year 35, I celebrate the adventure of getting to be his partner in life and in ministry.  Of getting to link arms and slug it out in the daily stuff and the really big stuff.  I celebrate getting to dream with him and make dreams happen.  I celebrate that I am the one to cherish his dreams, and he is the one to cherish mine.  I celebrate the certainty that there is no one on this earth who loves me more or knows me better or believes in my best or works for my good.  No one who looks at me that way, when I feel I am worthy of it and when I know I am not.  And I celebrate that of all the people in the world who could, I get to be that person for him.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians about this kind of relationship between a husband and wife, he said, "It's a great mystery.  But I am really talking about Jesus and his church."  In the Great Love Story, marriage is a picture of God and his people.

I'm thinking about that word picture this week, because in our Wednesday Bible study, we're learning the story of Hosea's marriage to Gomer.  It is a heart-breaking love story and a powerful picture of God's love for his people.

The first time God spoke to Hosea he said, 
"Go and find a woman who will be unfaithful to you, and marry her.
Make this unfaithful woman the mother of your children.
And here's why:  My people, every one of them, have become unfaithful to me, their God."
- Hosea 1:2

Sure enough, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea.  And God said, "My people are just like her.  They don't even realize that every good they have, it came from me.  They will set their hearts on anything and everything else."

I know this is true.  Last Sunday in church we sang my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount, with the verse that is my confession:

Oh! to grace, how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be.
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord—I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart.  Oh!  Take a seal it.  Seal it for Thy courts above.
- Robert Robinson "Come Thou Fount"

How can I be so sure of God's love, yet be so prone to wander in search of other sources that offer to  validate or comfort me?  How can I be more faithful to my earthly husband than to the Lover of My Soul?

Here's the thing:  Hosea knew when he married Gomer that she would be unfaithful.  Just as God knew when he chose to love his people that they would be unfaithful.  He warned them—Be careful!— it would happen, as long as they left other options as rivals for his rightful place.  And we must be just as careful, because the land we live in is full of other options.

But even an unfaithful marriage is a picture of God's faithful love for his people.

God told Hosea, "Start all over.  Love your wife again, your cheating wife.
Love her the way I love my cheating, unfaithful people."

God promised, "I'm buying my people back.  
I'll win your hearts, and you'll respond like a bride being courted.
In that day, you'll call me 'dear husband'.
And I will marry you.  And I will love you forever."
- Hosea 2:14-20, 3:1

"O come," Hosea pleads, "Let us return to the Lord."  

Oh!  I'm running to Your arms.  I'm running to Your arms.
The riches of Your love will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace.
Light of the World, forever reign!
-Jason Ingram/Ruben Morgan "Forever Reign"

I thought of Hosea and Gomer as we sang those words on Sunday.  I thought of them on Monday night as I celebrated my anniversary with the husband who daily shows me what the unfailing love of God is like.

Indeed, your husband is your Maker—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.
He is called the God of all the earth.
- Isaiah 54:5

Oh! Let Thy goodness, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Here is the story of God's unfailing love to his unfaithful wife.

Who will you tell this story to this week?

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