A Devotional Reflection – HOSEA 2

17/07/12 9:44 AM

It is day two of reading Hosea and already I am having a hard time moving beyond the very human dimensions of the metaphor Hosea uses to describe the Divine-human relationship. I feel compelled to comment on what is troubling me before I move to write my collect for the day.

In my very first pastoral appointment, I received a call from a couple from the community that wanted to get married. This would be my very first wedding to officiate. I was rather thrilled and nervous at the same time. I scheduled a series of pre-marriage counseling sessions with the couple, something I had never done and had only learned about in a couple of sessions at local pastor’s licensing school. When the counseling sessions began, I noticed almost immediately that something did not feel right. As I counseled the couple, I noticed that the woman seldom said a word. The man would speak for her and answered every question, even when I would address the woman directly. I even tried separating the couple, in one of the sessions, to conduct individual one-on-one sessions; but, even then, it felt as though I was hearing rehearsed responses to my questioning. I decided to proceed with the wedding, agreeing to officiate, even though something in my spirit was deeply troubled. I had not yet learned the courage to say, “No, I cannot officiate your wedding.” All I had for evidence were a few signs and the troubling in my spirit. To make a long story short, the story ended with the woman finally finding the courage to escape to a battered women’s shelter. The man was arrested and had a court appearance the last I had heard. I had spent one too many times with the couple after the woman had been hospitalized yet refusing to press charges.

Domestic violence is a reality all too common in our society. And what is often surprising is how seemingly good people can commit such heinous acts against people they purport to love. But, there can be no excuse for such behavior and acts of aggression. Sexual violence and domestic abuse is Sin and an evil that should not be accommodated. It is difficult for me to read scripture that portrays God as a jealous husband who can punish his lover for her unfaithfulness. I get it, that, we must understand the culturally conditioned context in which the biblical word is written; but, I can’t help but wonder why, in God’s infinite wisdom and illumining Spirit, God could not transcend culture by prompting the writers to do justice to God’s character.

Nevertheless, thanks be to God that, in my reading and interpretation of the same scriptures, I can appeal to the Holy Spirit to cause me to rise above the very human dimensions of the biblical text as I seek a Word from the Lord for my life today. I must confess that even I, a pastor’s kid now a pastor himself, am guilty of the propensity to Sin and violence. I am ashamed to admit that in a past relationship I argued with a girlfriend so terribly that, in my anger and the heat of the moment, I threatened her and wished her dead. Of course, I did not mean it, but just having the thought scared me to death. I allowed myself to lose control and let my anger consume me. Everyday I regret my loss of control and feel so ashamed that, I often feel like I cannot atone enough for my sin.

As I read and pray through Hosea 2 today, I am ultimately reminded of the greatest Sin I can commit: to fashion and portray God after my own image. While metaphors can be helpful to understand something about my relationship with God, I am cautioned against taking them and using them uncritically, for I may just be portraying God after my own image. I am not sure that the grace of the incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, meant that I could now make God appear like me, not even like my best self. I am created to be in the image of God (not the other way around) but God is bigger than any metaphor I could use to describe who God is, even in relationship to me. And so, in the end, all I can do is to shrink before the mystery of who God Is and pray that God shows mercy (ruhamah) on me, and counts me as one of God’s own (ammi).

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

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