Bent on turning, re-visit

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On Monday, when I wrote about Finding Space to Turn, I mentioned that I am bent on turning. If that phrase left you scratching your head, here is the rest of the story, that I wrote way back in January of 2016. As we enter this season of Lent, may we be willing to stop and re-turn.

Why am I amazed every single time that God reveals Himself. I mean, He does it so often, you would think I would begin to expect it. Yet, I am always surprised.

Consider this: Way back in November, my Wednesday morning battalion was discussing what we would study next. Several books were suggested, so we considered each of them before we decided on Jennifer Rothschild’s Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything. Well, that was November, and then Christmas happened.

God took me on a journey through December that landed me in January, longing to turn back to my good practices of Bible study, prayer, and blogging (see ‘Turn at any Time’). This idea of turning starting churning around in my head over a year ago when a couple of friends and I were meeting once a week for what I’ll call ‘prayer talking’. Each of us was embracing the idea of repenting, or turning. We were deciding together that we had been walking the wrong way and that we were willing to turn around and walk back toward God.

Among many of the topics that recur in this blog, like healing and soldiering, I often explore the idea of repenting — of turning. Perhaps you, like me, find yourself learning the same lessons over and over again. Learning and forgetting. Straying and re-turning.

So, when I joined the battalion this morning to start our study, the one that we chose last November, I could hardly keep myself from gasping when our leader paraphrased Hosea 11:7: My people are bent on turning away from Me. I almost audibly shouted, “Yes, Lord, I am! I am bent on turning, and you see it! You’re speaking to that tendency in me!”

God used Hosea to speak to this trend that is common to humans — our habit of turning away. He knows us! He knew that we would take his love for granted, that we would wander to look at any shiny little thing that caught our eyes. He knew I would continually try to soldier my way through, believing myself to be capable of handling life on my own, thankyouverymuch. He knew that when I did this I would end up feeling guilty, helpless, unloveable, and beyond hope.

So, He gave us Hosea.

Short story, even shorter: Hosea was a man of God who sought out Gomer, a prostitute, and continued to love her despite her perpetual unfaithfulness. This, my friends, is a picture of God’s covenant relationship with us. God, who is God, seeks out the perpetually unfaithful and continues to love us! He keeps both sides of the covenant!

Hosea is a love story, friends. It’s a tale of the unconditional love of God for His people. A love that pursues the wanderer. A love that steps into squalor to find us. It’s a story of God’s love that is bent on turning away from anger in order to save us. A love that welcomes us back and embraces us every single time we re-turn.

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled…return to the Lord…I will love [you] freely, for my anger has turned from [you]…[You] shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; [you] shall flourish like grain.”

Hosea 14, selected verses

As I re-visit this post today, in February of 2020, I’ve just come from Ash Wednesday service where a bunch of the perpetually unfaithful stood together singing, “there’s no shadow you won’t light up, mountain you won’t climb up, coming after me. There’s no wall you won’t kick down, lie you won’t tear down, coming after me.”

He continually pursues us; there is nothing He won’t do for us us. He keeps coming after us.

Why wouldn’t we want to stop turning away and re-turn?

Didn’t He Do It?

It dawned on me yesterday that I’ve been a little hard on myself in this blog lately.  Not unjustifiably so, but still…

Sometimes people comment that they find my willingness to ‘bare it all’ refreshing.  I guess we should thank my stepmother.  (Are you reading this, dear?)  Years ago I used to write a Christmas letter proclaiming all the wonderful things that had happened to our family throughout the year. You know the kind: My husband’s job was going great.  My life was picture perfect.  Our children were gifted and talented (really, they were!), and nothing could have gone better!  Really!

After having sent one such letter, we were visiting my father and my stepmother. In my memory, my stepmother was standing next to a pile of Christmas letters when she said something like, “I can’t hardly bare to read one more letter about how perfect someone’s life was this year!”  I have no memory of the rest of that visit.  That’s it.

I never wrote a letter the same way again.  In fact, for the past several years, I haven’t even penned one.  I can’t bring myself to do it!  Of course I want to gush about all the good stuff from the year, but it doesn’t hardly feel honest if I don’t also include the struggles!  And, as you know, our struggles are many!

I really didn’t set out to write a blog that was a baring of my soul.  In fact, if you go back to day one, I believe I was just mystified, and a little scared, about the major change I was going through — leaving a career to move to a place of stillness — and I needed an avenue to process it.  Little did I know that this season of rest would afford me some soul-searching time to process not only this change, but perhaps the last forty-nine years of my life!!

Although all this processing has been, at times, difficult, it is one of the most precious opportunities I have been afforded in my life.  After all that trudging and surviving, I now have a chance to look back and find meaning in all of it.  Really, all of it. Now, as you know if you read my blog regularly, all of the meaning ain’t what they call ‘cute’.  Some of the stuff I have done and lived through is down right ugly, mostly due to my own choosing.   And that’s where yesterday’s Bible study comes in.

The battalion and I are reading Malachi, but we took a brief field trip to Genesis yesterday to ‘watch’ the covenant between God and Abram (Genesis 15).  As was the way of covenants, God directed Abram to cut a number of animals in half and spread them on the ground.  Our Bible teacher, Lisa Harper, told us that way back in the day, the covenant makers would both walk through this bloody mess in their bare feet as a way of signifying their agreement to keep whatever promise they were making.  The blood on their feet was to show that if they didn’t keep their end of the agreement, then they would expect to be cut in half just like these animals — killed as their payment for failure to keep the promise.  Harper went further to say that in those days, if a poor man was making a covenant with a wealthy man, the wealthy one was not required to walk through the bloody mess.  After all, he had all ability to ‘pay back’ any debt or make up any loss that might be incurred if he didn’t follow through with the agreement.  The poor man, however, had nothing but his life as collateral.  He had to put his life on the line.  Now, when God directed Abram to arrange the bloodied animals on the ground, He did not also require Abram, the poor man, to walk through.  No, He told Abram to go to sleep.  And, while he was sleeping, while he was helpless, God Himself walked through the bloody mess, promising to pay with His own life if either participant in the covenant couldn’t follow through on the agreement. And, as my friends in St. Louis like to say, ‘didn’t He do it?’

God knew that Abram (and I) was poor and weak.  He knew that Abram (nor I) could hope to keep any kind of covenant.  He knew that Abram (and I) would make his own arrangements to create a legacy, to work out the details, to figure it out by himself when it seemed that God was not acting.  And still, still, He walked through that bloody mess knowing that He would keep the covenant — both sides of the covenant — for Abram (and for me).

And didn’t He do it?

When I have been unfaithful, hasn’t He been faithful?  When I have gone my own way, hasn’t He pursued me?  When I have soldiered on, hasn’t He protected me from myself.  When I have demanded my own way, hasn’t He watched and waited with open arms. When I have refused to call on Him, didn’t He send messenger after messenger into my path.  When I continued, didn’t He gather me up and carry me to a place of rest so that I could take a long look at how He has kept His covenant relationship with me?

Indeed He has, He did, He will.

Psalm 51:12

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and uphold me with a willing spirit.