DISCLAIMER: Rachel is not my “Gomer.” If you try to tell her that I said she was a prostitute from Biblical times, I will retaliate with Old Testament force!
…I remember my frustration during the period of time when I was trying to convince Rachel that she needed to go out with me. We had become very good friends and she would come over to our house at night and complain about guys…she was clueless.
When I finally broke down and told her how I felt, she wasn’t convinced (surprise, surprise! Many of you are still wondering how I pulled that one off…I’ll never tell!). But interestingly Rachel’s hesitation had less to do with the fact that she was out of my league and more to do with her fear of getting in another relationship. Though it had been quite some time, she still had not recovered from a bad break-up which was making it hard to trust the idea of once again making herself vulnerable. Luckily for me, my persistence paid off and now she’s stuck with me…happily ever after.
I have recently experienced a similar feeling of fear myself. I felt this reticence as I thought about the next church where I would serve. Those who are not in ministry sometimes think that losing your job is losing your job, no matter what you do. While I would never take away from the difficulty of anyone being told that their “services are no longer required”, ministers have the added difficulty of loosing their church family…their support system which should be there to help people through these times.
A wise man in ministry advised me not to see the congregations where I serve as my support system or even my spiritual family but rather to cultivate that community outside with other ministers. This counsel is based on recognizing the very real possibility that any church can let you go at any time. As much as we would like to say that we are working for God, we are being paid by man.
6 months ago…actually as recently as 2 months ago, I was convinced that the only advisable course of action was to resist putting “roots down” anywhere. It made sense that I was going to have to be somewhat of an outsider because I couldn’t risk allowing myself to become vulnerable again. Over the last few years I have developed a network of good friends, which was a definite blessing during these months.
But then a couple things began running through my head. The first was the story at the beginning of this post. There came a point where Rachel had to decide that she would risk another relationship. If she hadn’t, the world would have been deprived of Conner Allan Wells and his famous vanishing finger trick!
And also I thought of Hosea.
We know the story of the prophet Hosea. He was called by God to marry an adulterous woman named Gomer. God knew that she would not be faithful to Hosea, just as he had known that Israel would not remain faithful to him. Hosea was called on to demonstrate God’s love – a love which makes itself vulnerable even in the face of certain betrayal. Hosea would have been so blessed to have witnessed the love of Christ which surpassed even his commitment to Gomer. Christ’s was a love which not only made itself vulnerable, but was willing to forfeit life for the love of an adulterous people.
As a minister, God has called me to demonstrate this kind of love as well. Thankfully in his mercy God allowed me to marry a faithful, loving wife. He has surrounded me with compassionate, loyal friends. And the small thing that I have been asked to do is to make myself vulnerable to a group of people who could possibly (as opposed to “will definitely”) end our relationship in a painful way.
I will take the advice and continue to appreciate God’s blessing of holy friends, but I will also be faithful and marry my Gomer. I must be willing to invest in a community because this is how God calls us to love his children – not with reservation but wholeheartedly, accepting risk as the Lord did by first loving us.