At seven years old, I decided to run away from home (again). I packed my gummy-pink plastic backpack full of my favorite toys, mickey mouse bandaids, and a whole pack of double-stuf Oreo cookies. I set out in my favorite pair of shoes that lit up with every step and I walked deep into the woods behind my house. After a few minutes of walking (and remembering that my mom was making my favorite cookies for dessert after dinner), I decided running away could wait for a different day. I turned around...and around again, and around again.
But I couldn’t see my house anywhere. Feelings of panic began to surface, and I became completely convinced that I was going to die out there in the woods behind my house (thankfully, my older brother was in our backyard and heard my desperate cries for someone to save me. He bravely ventured into the woods after me; otherwise, I’m sure I would have been lost forever).
The wilderness is not a comfortable place. I’ve seen enough survival shows to know that if you’re in the wilderness, your goal is to get out as soon as possible. The wilderness is painful, testing, and heart-breaking. My very basic understanding of this makes it that much more difficult to understand why there would be a verse in the Bible that says: “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness…”
The book of Hosea is not for the faint of heart. It’s not the book you cross-stitch onto frilly pillows to sit prim-and-proper on your great aunt’s aging couch. It’s graphic and brutal and heartbreakingly painful. In the middle of the idolatry and adultery, there’s a verse in Hosea 2 that says, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”
“I will bring her into the wilderness.” That achy, panicky feeling of dread is all too familiar. The wilderness doesn’t make sense. The wilderness is not comfortable. It is wild, untamed, unpredictable, harsh, (insert all the adjectives that are the opposite of COMFORT). I get so caught up in trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense. Well, it doesn't when I’m standing in the middle of it, too close to see the big picture.
But then something strange. Something unexpected. “I will speak tenderly to her.” My palms are sticky with panic, but my heart opens to the intimacy of that promise.
What if we stopped trying to make sense of the wilderness? What if, instead, we focused on the tender words of the one who led us into that uncomfortable place?
-Morgan Jackson // @morgantea