Dividing the seventeen prophetic books in the Bible into what commonly are known as the major and minor prophets does not do them justice. The remaining prophets are not so minor. The prophetic content of these next twelve books are as compelling as the others but the designation of being minor seems to minimize attention to them. If a piece of literature warrants a place in the Bible after going through all the scrutiny and criteria scholars over the ages put it through to deem its credibility, be assured there are nuggets there worth mining through.
To start off, this designated section on prophecy is the book of Hosea, the “Prophet of Divine Love.” He is one of two prophets from the northern kingdom. His name means “deliverance,” and he’s a contemporary of Isaiah. His is a story of an unconditional, godlike, steadfast love for his unfaithful wife, Gomer. She turned to prostitution after bearing him three children. In love and at great emotional distress, he eventually accepts his wayward wife back to him after pursuing and forgiving her. This story is an allegory for Israelites to return to unrelenting love God for them to leave the false gods they were worshiping. Hosea manifests and exemplifies God’s patience and love. God is the faithful husband to the adulterous Israelites. This metaphor exemplifies Jesus who is shown as the groom of the Church who His bride (Mk. 2:19-20, Jn. 3:29). Also, there is the foretelling in Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt. 2:14).
Hosea links his message around his personal life with his prophetic words flowing out of the life of his family more than any other prophet. He marries a woman with the advanced knowledge from God that she would betray his trust. He gives his children names of woe to send a message of judgment on the Israelites. The cycle of repentance, redemption, and restoration is exemplified in Hosea’s prophecy about his family (Hos. 1:2, 3:1–3).
For better or for worse, I am a hopelessly hopeful romantic. I am not sure if Hosea was or not. He may have had the wherewithal to be obedient to God no matter what.
To love is worth the risk of failure, rejection, and hurt. British poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson captures it with his familiar words: “I would rather have loved and lost than not love at all. In anticipation, I get a glimpse of something larger than the loss itself.”
Courage is part of falling in love and can be identified in what the twenty sixth president Theodore Roosevelt said, “…Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Reframing rejection from negative to positive helps. Our past is not our prologue, and rejection opens a door for expectation of something else to look forward to. Who, in retrospect cannot say they are glad God didn’t say yes to every one of their prayers. There is a measure of protection from certain people in their rejection of us.
Grief from death, separation or rejection is part of the cost of love. I’m accused of being too “touchy, feely” because of my sensitive temperament. Part of that accusation wears people out with my trying to tear down walls, fighting to make something better or understandable. Sometimes I wear myself out too.
In their school years, my kids would come home at one time or another to share some scenario about their friends who were rude, mean, unfriendly, or inconsiderate towards them. I would venture a little deeper into the conversation, asking them questions hoping to unwrap the “why” of behavior. In retrospect, it probably bothered them that I wasn’t more compassionate with how they felt. Instead, it probably insinuated I was trying to examine the situation and explain it away.
Later in life, one of the children accused me of believing my “lies,” of how I reasoned out conduct to explain my spouse’s behavior (more on lies in the chapter on Habakkuk). She said I created these lies I believed. Johann Goethe says we are never deceived, we deceive ourselves. I naively and honestly thought it an unspoken law on how to be a good wife by edifying my spouse, not tearing him down in front of the kids. I saw the counterfeit life the other was living, the cracks in the veneer. I might have been at risk of enabling a behavior my accepting something ended up giving too much of my own power away. I do not mean power in the sense of control or wanting to do things my way. I am referring to a person’s power with regards to their unique talents and gifts.
The Laughing Bear, a poem by Katherine Tilton, is about the transformation in relinquishing one’s personal power away. There is a wolf in the poem who offers to take care of someone whom he figured out was disguised in sheep’s clothing to better fit in with others. There was a catch, though, for the sheep impostor to consent to that protection. What the wolf wanted in return was to take a small bite out of the sheep each day. In the end, there was be nothing left of the sheep.
With heartache, I see that that kind of thinking falls in line with people who stay in abusive relationships. The paradox of this kind of love, found in the poem and in life, is we think we’re safe at the cost of acquiescing too much. Before you know it, acquiescing becomes a habit of the heart.
Examining the core of the emotion underlying fear, anger, or happiness is like peeling through the layers of an onion. Often it involves tears that are equally as pungent as when peeling the real vegetable. I will never forget a conversation I had with one of my boys who shockingly said he hopes he is dead by fifty. I immediately asked why, thinking it might have to do with some physical pain he may have to endure the rest of his life. He answered perfectly by leading with the word “what” versus “why” by clarifying his statement with another question: “What happens to men when they turn fifty? I would rather be dead than do the things I am seeing done!”
His disillusionment cracked my heart a little more that day. He wasn’t only referring to his disillusion of his parents’ impending divorce but also to another’s midlife identity crisis of a man he admired from another family who disappointed him. Unfortunately, this crisis was exposed by the press. Cruelly, his wife was a recipient of hate mail and phone calls as if she was the culprit. She told me she was either shunned or put to such shame that she would shop for groceries after midnight in a nearby town so as not to run into anyone she knew. Even her priest gave her private communion.
Pushed into a singleton life, I was so confused making my way through the smoke and mirrors of what I thought was my life but now isn’t. One angry disillusion I had was finding myself in the place, so publicly forewarned in society, of being abandoned at midlife and traded in for a newer model. Everything I had thought began to unravel. My doubts amplified. I had a crisis in questioning the ultimate truths in life and if they were real. I had trust issues about truth. Mentally, I inventoried what I previously believed. I did a deep archaeological dig inside me. I didn’t lose my faith, but it certainly was shaken. I read somewhere that if a person is a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in their life they doubt as far as possible all things believed before.
In my rumination, I came across the Proverb (4:7): “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it will cost all you have, get understanding.” Which in execution is a hard win won.
So maybe that contributes to why I jump to what St. Francis of Assisi said in seeking first to understand, not to be understood. Whyte writes that the expectation that (human) love should be perfectly requited often leads to heartbreak. God’s love, though, is eternal hope and it can endure many things.