Years ago a co-worker suggested the book, Redeeming Love, by the author Francine Rivers, since I enjoyed books set in a historical period. The story is set in 1850 and it is a retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer from the Old Testament. The writing style is powerful and drew me in quickly. The theme of forgiveness and grace was palpable to me and resonated with elements of my own redemption story.
While in a thrift store a couple months ago, I came across another copy of Redeeming Love. I have a personal copy along with a lending copy already, but they are in a box. A friend came to mind when I saw the copy in the thrift store so I bought it immediately. I gave her the copy to read and found another one for me to read again.
The reason this story kicks me in the back side and tears at my heart so much, is simple. For every vow Gomer or in the story, Angel, makes there is the understanding that at some point it will be broken. Sometimes it will be broken out of stubborn willfulness and other times because of the brokenness in the heart of Gomer/Angel.
I have struggled with my own vows in my life and faith journey and even with my own marriage. I know that I long for my heart to be faithful to the God who loves me and sacrificed everything for me, but then I stumble, I struggle, and even out-right rebel against the best He has planned for me. I may go for weeks or months in rebellion, unwilling to bend to the will of God. In the end, I fall flat on my face, knees bloody, hands and face scratched and dirty from trying to make my way on my own.
I crawl back to God, waiting for His swift discipline to come down, knowing I deserve it. But instead of hands that bring down judgment, they come and comfort me. Clean me, hold me, and restore me. Not just the first time, or the second, or the tenth time- but every time. That’s the kind of love He has for me. And for you, Best Beloved.
Marriage is different, however. In a marriage, there are two very finite, very human parties involved. Each person brings with them the brokenness they experienced in their families of origin. Some may react in anger when the vow s broken, their may respond with grace, and still others may respond with cold indifference. In essence saying that they have been hurt too much and will not allow their hearts to be available for injury anymore. It is here that the injured spouse chooses to break their own vows.
When I promised to love, honor, and cherish my husband, I was making a vow that no matter what happened this would be true of my emotional and even mental state. My vows were not just flowery words, they were set in stone, it was a fact. Something I would stake my life on if necessary. In the twenty-plus years we have been married I have remained faithful to him, loved him, cherished him. Anyone who knows us, would to vouch for that.
Honoring a spouse though, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I did not understand the depth of the heart matter that came with this vow. By choosing to honor my husband, I am also choosing to listen with both ears, to let his words resound inside, instead of waiting to have a turn to respond in kind. It is here that my battle is being fought daily. Sometimes won, sometimes lost. Not because he isn’t worth honoring, but because my honor is finite. It is temporal and often lost to whatever is happening at the time.
Dear Ones, it is here that I call out to God. I need Him so badly. Sincerity is great, but follow through is more important. Consistent follow through is even better. I know that I cannot do it with God. My heart may be for my husband, for my God and my relationships with each of them. Yet, this side of Heaven I will fail, more than once.
Yet I do not give up. I continue to strive for the honor my husband deserves, the honor that shows him that he has value and worth. The same kind that God showed to me, even when I didn’t earn it. This is where I identify so well with Gomer and Angel. The desire to honor their husband was not easy to live out.
Paul said it best, I think in Romans 7:17-20: “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Paul knew it was the Holy Spirit moving in Him that made his release from sin possible. And so it is with me.
Heavenly Father, you know my heart longs to please You, it also knows I cannot without Your direction, interaction, and intercession for me. Jesus, may my love for you and desire to honor you overflow into my love and desire for my husband. Amen