Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

Could It Be That Gomer Is My Name? (Sep-Oct 1999)

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by Francelia Powell
September-October, 1999

Prostitute: A woman given to indiscriminate lewdness for hire; a harlot.

Whore: One who has unlawful sexual intercourse, especially for hire.

Adultery: Voluntary sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than one’s marriage partner.

Prostitute, whore adultery. Ugly, repulsive, offensive words. Words foreign to me, to you. Words that I occasionally read but almost never say out loud. Words that my mind resists, pushing them away from my soul, words that describe an unfortunate few who exist beyond the borders of my lifestyle.

I saw them as I drove 13th Street NW to and from my job in downtown Washington, D.C., eight o’clock in the morning, six o’clock at night. Women offering intimacy for the inanimate, union for a snort of euphoria, a piece of their soul for a price. I drove by, distant, insulted, removed. I made a joke, “The ladies are working;” no kindred spirit on this street.

Prostitute, whore, adultery, the words are not connected to me> I don’t use them, yet my Lord used those words with the prophet Hosea to describe his beloved, his people, and their relationship to him. “Go take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Don’t just talk, Hosea; experience the pain yourself.

Her name was Gomer. Gomer, the adulterous wife of a man f the eighth century B.C. Her lifestyle is as far removed from mine as that of the women on 13th Street – or are we all more connected than I want to believe?

When I was asked to share with a group of women the story of my spiritual journey, I certainly didn’t plan to begin with those thoughts. As I prayed, though, and sought a metaphor with which to compare my relationship with the Lord, I was distressed to feel Michael Card’s poignaant Song of Gomer flooding my soul. I stood at the kitchen sink and listened to the song again and again. My tears rolled down my cheeks and slid into the dishwater. Why did the words of this song pierce my heart so? Could it be that Gomer is my name?

I pledged my life to the Lord when I was 11 years old – at least that was when I made a decision to be baptized and become a member of His church. What were my thoughts, my motivation? I can remember agreeing with the visiting evangelist that this was the most important thing I would ever do, and I remember also the joy of becoming a part of the family, a fellowship of people who loved God and each other.

I responded to God because I felt a longing for something, and I believed this was the way to satisfy it. Not a bad beginning, perhaps, for an 11-year-old, but – like a wife who marries not because of the person her husband is but for the things he might provide – I violated our relationship whenever it seemed that God was either unable or unwilling to give me what I wanted. Over the next two and a half decades, the time came again and again when the Father, because he is love, couldn’t possibly give me what I was asking for. How could he give me a stone when I needed bread, a snake when my soul hungered for fish? Never mind that I wasn’t asking for bread and fish; to me, the stone and snake had more appeal. And so I departed from God.

I took other lovers. The lovers had names: boyfriend, education, job, money, spouse, children, success. The lovers were not intrinsically evil, but they were not designed to fit on the throne of my heart. That space is too big for them; they couldn’t fill it. Nor were the desires sinful: love, esteem, appreciation, fulfillment, peace. God created those desires in me as he created my sexual desire, but just as that desire can be truly fulfilled only when I am led by his spirit in obedience to his will, so it is with the longings of my heart and soul. And his will is that I love him with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind.

But I looked elsewhere for my satisfaction. And I came to know the slavery of addictions: relationships, work, food. I am Gomer. But the story of Gomer is an incredible love story, and that’s my story, too. Foolish Hosea went out and bought – yes, bought – his wife back out of slavery, and so did the lover of my soul. The price was staggering – Himself – but he loves me foolishly, extravagantly, lavishly. Because of who I am? No, because of who he is. His name is Jesus, and my name is Gomer.

I read though Hosea again and heard God say to Israel, “Then I will cure you of idolatry and faightlessness, and my love will know no bounds.” I listened to the song again, form a new perspective. I became Hosea listening as Gomer described her husband, her lover: “A fool to love someone like me, a fool to suffer silently … simply more than I can see, how He keeps on forgiving me, how He keeps His sanity … Hosea you’re a fool.”

I was confronted by the contrast of Hosea’s love for Gomer, and, in the greater sense, God’s love for me, with my love for others. Whom do I love “foolishly,” “lavishly,” without regard to receiving the same love in kind? My husband, my children, my family, certain friends? Until now, I’ve chosen to love people who seem to promise a pretty good return on my love investment in them. But what about when I feel cheated? What about the times when I feel that the outgo is more than the income? When I’m giving more than I’m getting? Even in the most loving relationships, those times come.

This business of unconditional love is impossible! Can I love my husband and refrain from being rude to him and self-seeking in our relationship? Can I love my children and not become easily angered? Can I love my friend and not keep a record of her wrongs? Can I love God when my child lies dying in my arms? Does my love always protect, always trust, alsways hope, and always persevere, even among those wo reject my love? No. That’s my present, or the now, of my walk with Jesus, but I have a future.

In looking at my past, I caught a glimpse of that future: “How wide and long, and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And because I know this love, I can be filled up “to the measure of all the fullness of God.” And God is love. I am an eternal being, and I have an eternity to become that which I was creted to be: a lover. My Lord says, “Love each other as I have loved you” and “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last, then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:12,16).

To love as I am loved. A foolish hope? Yes, but I’m beginning to want to be a fool of God. Unconditional love? Impossible! But my God deals in impossibilities: a camel passes through the eye of a needle, a virgin conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit, a Savior rises from death. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45). I believe!Wineskins Magazine

Francelia and her husband, Bill, live in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with their three children. She works part-time selling jewelry, but spends the summer teaching Bible at Camp Hunt in upstate New York.

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