ROAR

April 25, 2020

Hosea had always scared me.

Hosea is that man whose calling as a prophet was to marry an unfaithful woman, so he could demonstrate to people what God was feeling. It always seemed unnecessary and cruel to ask this man to suffer so much. It scared me because if God called Hosea to a life of such humiliation and suffering, surely the same fate lay ahead for me if I followed Him wholeheartedly. Of course there’s a lot more to the story, but I never was really able to get past Hosea’s pain and see the bigger picture.

Recently I started thinking about Hosea a lot. When I looked at my life, it seemed as though I had been putting out a lot of love and not getting very much returned. I wondered if perhaps I was already living a Hosea type of life filled with more than my fair share of rejection and humiliation and hadn’t really noticed it. So I braced myself for a painful lesson and settled in to reread the biblical book I so often avoided.

And what I found was a piece of God I had never understood before. A piece of Him you can only understand if you have suffered in the particular way Hosea suffered. Which I guess is why God wove this harrowing story for Hosea to live. God needed–or maybe He just desired–for a man to tell us how it felt to love us. Hopefully you haven’t felt the acute pain of loving someone who didn’t or couldn’t love you back. Or the choking, suffocating feeling of love that cannot be expressed or appreciated. But for those of us who have, we understand a part of God that we can tell you about.

Many years ago God called me to become Rahul’s mom. He was 7 and he had been traumatized, and I was re-traumatizing him by pulling him out of the only life he knew to move him across the earth and become Family with me. I knew we would spend our lives battling his demons and I understood that he might always be angry with me for taking him away from his home. I knew that he might always be broken and that I could potentially spend my whole life trying to mend a heart that could never heal.

The journey with Rahul these last 12 years has been harrowing. Rahul has battled his demons valiantly and worked harder on growing and healing than anyone I’ve ever seen before. He has looked his traumas straight in the eyes over and over and fought with all his strength to overcome every obstacle that has threatened to undo him. As for me, I’ve lost money, friends, sleep, sanity, and health. I have been bruised and bloodied, crushed and broken. It feels like Rahul and I are army buddies. We continue to fight the good fight together and we love each other a lot.

But one thing that has been difficult for me is that Rahul has a disorder that makes him very resistant to attaching to people. Attachment is a foreign language he has had to learn. I have had to teach him how to need me. How to reach out for me when he’s hurting. How to ask for help when he’s stuck. And still, even after 12 years and all these battles later, he can only open his heart so much, he can only trust so much, he can only feel safe loving so much. Rahul fills me with joy and delight, but I am also filled with longing. I long for him to love spending time with me as much I love spending time with him. I long for him to feel whole and complete because of my love the same way I feel whole and complete because of his. Rahul and I were laughing just today about how ironic it is that while we are sheltering in place at home together during this pandemic, he is the only person who is allowed to touch me. I long for a hug–from anyone! And the one person who is allowed to hug me is my boy who prefers to wrap himself up in a blanket cocoon as far away from me as possible. Rahul is very kind to me. He does nice things for me that are really special: sometimes he brushes my hair at night while we talk, sometimes he rubs my feet at the end of a hard day, once he sang me a lullaby and held me while I cried about my car breaking down. I have taught him to do these things. He has trusted me enough to allow me to teach him. These moments are pure gold to me. But I long for more. As I read Hosea’s words about God’s longing for His children to come near to Him and love him with the same ferocity that He loved them, I realized that I knew exactly what that felt like.

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

 

Unrequited romantic love is the worst pain. I have known it intimately. It is humiliating and demoralizing to fall in love with someone who does not love you. It is exhausting to hold your heart open for a man who does not want it, not because you have chosen to torture yourself, but because God has marched you up to the top of a mountain and shown you the most exquisite vista, the most amazing man you have ever known. Then He has left you there with no seeming plan to carry you to that vista, so you wait and watch and wonder if you should go back down the mountain or if you even can! You wonder if God has forgotton you there on the mountain. Or maybe He’s mad at you and has plans to throw you off the mountain to humiliate you. And the vista is always in view, growing brighter and more attractive with each encounter you have with him. You decide, finally, that God has brought you up this mountain and you’re going to trust Him to get you off of it. You decide to not be consumed with worry or despair, but to trust Him. To wait faithfully for the vista He has led you to. And you decide to believe that one day your love with be returned and you can love the man you love. Freely and safely pouring out your heart to him.

“I will be like the dew to Isreal; he will blossom like a lily…His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon…He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon…I will answer him and care for him. I will heal [his] waywardness and love him freely.” Hosea 14:5-8; 4

 

Living through this pandemic in NYC has been painful in many ways. Friends have been sick, others have lost loved ones. One of my best friends lost both her parents to the virus on Easter weekend. She had given birth to her daughter just two weeks before they died. The pain my friend is feeling is unmeasurable. It is unknowable. It is unendurable. All I want to do is go to her and hug her. I want to sit at her side and hold her hand and let her cry into my hair. I want to be in the same space with her and breathe the same air as her so we can mourn together. But all I can do is bake her bread and hang it on her doorknob, trusting that God will make that bread taste like a hug from me.

“Wait for your God always.” Hosea 12:6

“In You the fatherless find compassion.” Hosea 14:3

 

Last night I went for a walk in the middle of the night. I wrapped a scarf around my face even though I knew I would not encounter anyone else in my neighborhood that I would need to social distance from. I walked and cried and prayed, as I often do. And as I passed my son’s former elementary school I stopped in my tracks. There, staring straight at me, were hundreds of daffodils. There was just enough light from the moon and the streetlights to make them out. They were facing me and I felt overcome. Spring had come and was shouting at me and I couldn’t acknowledge it. I couldn’t appreciate all the beautiful flowers and colors and smells because I have been holding my breath for weeks. I have been wrapped up and closed up and bottled up emotionally, and as I stood there staring at these flowers that had been holding themselves open all day, all week, probably, just waiting for someone to notice them and appreciate the generosity of their beauty. I just said outloud “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.” My heart broke for them because I know how they feel.

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. For I am God , and not man–the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the Lord;

He will roar like a lion.

When He roars his children will come trembling from the west…like birds…I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.”  Hosea 11:8-11

So I stand on my mountain and I spread my arms open wide. I turn slowly as I search the entire horizon for those that I love. I can’t see them, but I can feel them. I know they are near. I draw in breath and fill my weary lungs with air. And I release the sound that will make them come running. It will make them know that I love them and that they are free to love me back. It is the sound that contains all my compassion, all my humiliation, all my desperation, all my love.

“ROAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!”

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