“My beloved is mine, and I am his.”
Song of Songs 2:16
Standing in the back of the church, my body trembled. The flowers, lilies were his favorite, shook in my hands. I was clothed in the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. It was glorious white and pure as snow. No embellishments were needed. He had picked out the dress himself, but he hadn’t seen it on me. I wondered what he would think. Was he having second thoughts? After all, I couldn’t imagine someone so wonderful, so amazing picking me.
As I turned the corner, there he stood, dressed in clothes fit for a king. His jacket pulled taut over his mighty shoulders. (Those shoulders had to be strong; from now on, he would be carrying my heavy load.) He wore a smile the biggest and brightest I’d ever seen. I could tell that he was happy to see me. I noticed him fidgeting with his hands as I walked down the aisle. When I drew close, he reached for me. My hands felt safe in his. My beloved.
There was no one to give me away, although a crowd had gathered that afternoon. The decision had to be all mine. Saying yes the day he invited me into his life would be something I would never regret. Today I would say I do and forever belong to him. Divorce hadn’t even entered my mind. I would never find someone else like him—someone so forgiving, so loving, so grace-giving, someone who completed me so well.
I take you, my beloved, to be my husband, and before God and these witnesses I promise to be a faithful and true wife.
Will you love him, comfort and keep him, and forsaking all others remain true to him as long as you both shall live?1
I didn’t really think about those words that day. I was too lost in his eyes. . . . The sun rose and set in his crystal blue eyes. . . . I was eager to begin our life together—my mind and heart full of the happily ever after I had dreamed about for so long. Of course, I did mean to keep my vows. I didn’t intend to break my promises.
Not too long after, I became comfortable, almost restless. One day, I went out in search for something. Like Eve treading dangerously close to that tree and its forbidden fruit, I allowed my heart and body to linger too close to the fire. I’d forgotten how my beloved’s love satisfied. I left his letter to me unread on the kitchen table that morning. I thought what I wanted was love, but my flesh cried out for passion and empty lust. I found plenty. There were many moments of great intensity, but in the end, the fire always went cold. My lovers left me alone, broken, and empty. I ached for warmth.
He came and found me. My beloved should not be here. Not in a place like this. He was too pure, too perfect. He would mar himself. Not for me. No! I wanted to cry out, but the only thing I could do was collapse there on the dirty ground and let him carry me home.
There, in the place that was once sacred, he washed the filth of my wounds. He told me he loved me. I winced from the pain, more from the anguish deep in my soul than what was visible on the outside. He told me he was enough for me. It was like a balm to the anguish and shame I found on the streets. Why had I ever left? All I had ever needed was right here.
On a dark summer night, he walked into my life with a cool gait. We’ll call him Mr. H. I was immediately taken by his handsome appearance. In record time, we had a budding relationship. My beloved tried to caution me, to remind me to keep my love for him first, but he didn’t discourage me from Mr. H. Captivated by him, we began a life together. I thought it was love that pulled so strongly on my emotions, but I was infatuated and blind. I began to see myself through Mr. H’s eyes. Every time he came home from work downtrodden, I was a failure. Every time he smiled, I was a queen. He had become a god to me. I denied it at first, but the weight of my need was crushing Mr. H and consuming our relationship.
Exhausted from running, I crumbled at the feet of my beloved. Tenderly, he placed his hand under my chin and drew my eyes into his. I thought I would see anger from betraying him again, but I only saw hurt. He was hurting for me, and for Mr. H. I am more than enough, he reminded me. In me you will lack nothing. I love you completely. You are mine. Would I believe him this time? Would I stop straying?
Over the years, our relationship grew. Strengthened by my beloved’s words, I became more confident in his complete love for me. My confidence grew into a deep burden to share his love with others. That is when I met her. Miss Ministry said and did all the right things. She knew my beloved and was eager to join me and my mission for sharing him with others. His love was too good to keep a secret!
Miss Ministry and I worked side by side feverishly sharing the good news. Somewhere along the way, I got distracted. I forgot why I was doing what I was doing. I began forwarding the beloved’s letters on to other’s without reading them myself. I saw the results of our work as a testimony to my own effort, and when I didn’t see results, I would doubt, pout and throw a pity-party. Frustration arose when I didn’t see others serving like I was. From deep inside, an old-familiar ache gnawed at my soul. I was missing him, my beloved.
When life’s troubles became too great and life with Miss Ministry wasn’t as fulfilling as I had expected, I stopped and listened for his voice. In the stillness, I heard quiet. Was it too late? Had I forsook my first love for the last time?
Returning to the church where it all began, I saw him kneeling at the altar. He was weeping. As I crept closer, I heard his words as he cried out to his father. I gasped. He was praying for me!
I am praying for her, Father. She is yours. I want to be glorified in her life. I have spent my life to guard, love, protect and redeem her. I want her to be filled with my joy. She is not of this world. Sanctify her by your truth. Father, I chose her before she even knew me. I lavished upon her grace, and I made known to her my love. Thank you for giving her to me. She has run from me again, prostituted herself on the altar of false gods. Please open her eyes and give her wisdom. Let the eyes of her heart be enlightened so that she may really know the hope to which I called her. Let her experience my great power working in her. Help her to really know who I AM. May she be filled.2
Then, my beloved stood and turned to me . . .
Fear not, my love. I have called you by name. You are mine. I am your beloved. I have given my life in exchange for yours. You are precious in my sight. You are honored, and I love you.3
I love you. Those words. How could he say that after all this time? Hadn’t I done enough? When would his love find a stopping place? When would I finally realize that it never would? I fell into his arms and cried for a long time . . .
* * *
There is a story in the Old Testament of a woman named Gomer. Her unfortunate name matches the tragic life she lived. Pursued and loved by the prophet Hosea, she was bought out of a life of prostitution only to return. God used Hosea to tell the tale of His own people—a people loved by God but incessantly pursuing that which was fake and unfulfilling.
After countless hours searching and coming up empty, Gomer says, “‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (Hosea 2:7-8).
Gomer’s story resonates with my own. Since the time when I asked Jesus to come into my heart as a young child, I have spent many hours, days and years running. Running from the truth. Running from the only one that can truly fill me. I thought I was running to something better, but I ended up finding what was far less. Over and over again, Christ has “allured me, and brought me into the wilderness, where he spoke tenderly to me” saying over and over again, I am enough, more than enough, for you (see Hosea 2:14).
I don’t know how Gomer’s life ended up. I’m not sure if she ever really “got it.” What I do know is that God’s love is forever faithful and in passionate pursuit of me. I wish I could say my days of doubting and running are over, but I am still in the flesh. Like Paul, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is . . . For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). My Beloved, God, calls out to me in those desperate places. He demands to be number one and reminds me what only He can offer. Every false god I serve will leave me broken and empty. “Wretched [woman] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25a, emphasis added)!
I love how chapter two of Hosea ends . . .
“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me, ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered no more. I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, You are my people; and [she] shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
2. See John 17 and Ephesians 1
3. See Isaiah 43