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Reading Challenge 2014 – March

Forgive the lateness of this blog post. I’ve been dealing with sick kids, a crazy business project, and my own foray in to emergency surgery when my appendix decided to call it quits. Apparently, working for me wasn’t rewarding enough, so it packed a bag and fled the scene. Fortunately BEFORE leaving behind any damaging remnants…

In the meantime, I DID read an amazing book in March in spite of my many trials. I’m discovering that reading three books a month (like I’d originally planned) is reaching a bit high on the goal meter. Apologies for promises not kept in that regard, but apparently mommyhood means I actually DON’T get all the time in the world to read any more. Who’d a thunk it?

On to my review…

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I’ve read many retellings of the classic Bible stories, but very few that caught my eye like this one. For one thing, it doesn’t actually retell a well-known story. Redeeming Love tells the story of a little known prophet named Hosea and his relationship with the prostitute turned wife who added gray hair to his head and ultimately left little in the way of a happy ending for the man of God. At least, no happy ending was told, though it might have been implied depending on how one reads the book of Hosea.

To give some background. Hosea was a prophet living in the time when Israel had fallen far from God and God had finally had enough. He sent his prophets and judges to administer truth and justice to his people, while foreign kingdoms ravaged both the land and His wayward Chosen. Hosea was given a task. A job that would ultimately show the Israelite nation exactly what God meant when he called them unfaithful.

Hosea was to marry a woman KNOWN for her casual, paid sexual encounters with multiple partners. Some called her whore, prostitute, loose woman. No matter what they called her, she was a prisoner in the life she lived and it only led her down a deadly path. So Hosea in a very real sense, saved her and destroyed her chains when he bought and married her. He gave her respectability, a home, a name for her children (even the ones that weren’t his), and the love of a strong man of God.

Here’s the kicker. Gomer could not seem to accept the fact that her chains were gone. She went back, again and again, to the life of prostitution. Her illegitimate children were still claimed by Hosea, but she stomped on his heart time and again every time she returned to the men who used and abused her. She was beaten and raped and violated and she still chose to run away from the only man who showed her what true love and forgiveness looked like.

I remember reading this story as a young girl and wondering how a man like Hosea could continually pursue such an unworthy woman. Who cares what God asked of him. No man should have to suffer with the humiliation and degradation of an unfaithful, ungrateful spouse.

What I didn’t ask until much later was this: How far gone was Gomer, that it took SO MANY rescues for her to finally get that she was no longer a prisoner? How many years of suffering and poor choices and degradation did she experience to make her cling so tightly to the chains that once bound her, because she was so very afraid of the freedom she’d been offered?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is set in the 1840’s gold rush in California. Michael Hosea is a god-fearing farmer, unafraid of hard work and with an unfailing love for his Savior. On one of his trips into town, he meets a beautiful, haunted prostitute and hears clearly God’s command to marry her. Of course, what sane man would willingly choose that life, regardless of how beautiful the woman is? In a time where the brothel women were sex slaves to powerful men and women (actually, the sex slave trade doesn’t seem much different even now), Michael knew the cost of freeing Angel went far deeper than just offering her his home and bed. In the end, after much prayer and wrestling, he gave in to God’s will, saving his reluctant bride just in the nick of time.

The problems only began when he brought her home and tried to care for her needs, while refusing to be just another Tom, Dick, or Harry to the wounded woman. In the meantime, Angel’s bitter past leaves jagged scars that refuse to let her go. Though Michael tries hard to understand and help her heal, she repeatedly runs from his love and tenderness. How can someone who’s known only abuse and hatred her whole life, understand what love and forgiveness looks like? How can one who’s only seen demons ever comprehend what God looks like, even represented by such an amazing man like Michael.

In the end, Michael must release her from her god-worship of him so Angel can finally see that he was only a representative of the One who could and would heal all of her wounds and love her unconditionally–in spite of her unfaithfulness.

In the end, two wounded souls discover a healing that goes both ways, and a promise of forever from a faithful God who knows our true names and understands exactly why He chose to covenant Himself with our broken spirits.

Readers Challenge 2014

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