|This morning's light|
I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness.
This is the word of the Lord to Hosea.
I don't want to bring up his story, a man commanded by God to marry a whore and suffer the continuing heartbreak of her sleeping around, of children who are hers but not his. It's not flannel-board stuff. There is so much suffering, so much grief, so much obligation despite monstrous faithlessness that I just don't want to go there.
It's a parable and therefore to be taken far more seriously than if it were some scripted reality TV show about a misguided fool who hears voices and idiotically believes the abuse he suffers has some ultimate, eternal purpose.
I don't care to review Hosea's story because its thin comfort feels too much like the story of Job, who loses so much.
But that line up top comes from his book, Hosea, just about as good a line as the Bible contains. It's a promise the Lord himself gives Hosea after what must have seemed a lifetime of suffering. "I will betroth you to me forever," God tells him. "I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion," he says. "I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord."
"I will espouse you," say some translations, I will make you my loving spouse.
It's an incredibly homely metaphor for God almighty, especially in a day when marriages suffer so greatly. And yet it isn't. It's the best metaphor for love we know or desire.
Some students, for reasons unknown, make impressions that never fade. But those impressions are frozen in time, fossils in the memory of every lifelong teacher, and not all of them darling.
Some of those fossils now claim they'd like me to come back to Phoenix for their forty-year reunion; but I don't think I'd know them. Those I won't forget, like those I can't, are 58 years old. I wouldn't know what to say.
And I don't know what to say this morning either because right now there's this couple, former students I remember, who this very morning are suffering the death of their little boy, a precious two-year-old whose medical condition fell into such hopelessness that it was left for them to determine how and when life systems would no longer be given. I can't imagine that.
I remember them as if they were twenty maybe, both of them in class, both of them kids, bright and engaged. That's no longer true, and I'm an idiot for wanting still to be their teacher, now, this morning especially. I want to be able to say something wise and fulfilling, something that will assuage their measureless grief, when maybe silence is the best we can offer.
I want to give them these lines from God: "I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion."
"I promise you my love. I will espouse you. I will love like none other will or can."
Thus saith the Lord God almighty, creator or heaven and earth, the artist who painted the dawn just outside my window.
That's what this old teacher wants to tell them, blessed words from a story I don't want to tell, words for which I'm greatly thankful.