God, the divorcé
“I observed that it was because unfaithful Israel had committed adultery that I had sent her away and had given her a certificate of divorce” — Jeremiah 3:8a
“This is what the Lord says: Where is your mother’s divorce certificate that I used to send her away? Or who were My creditors that I sold you to? Look, you were sold for your iniquities, and your mother was put away because of your transgressions” — Isaiah 50:1
These verses make me uncomfortable.
I’ve gotten used to the fact that Jesus lived a finite, painful life as a human, but God experiencing the messiness of divorce is a concept I can’t quite imagine. God doesn’t have tornadoes ripping up the golden streets, nor could cancer ever infect his body. Thus, I tend to assume that he is insulated from pain.
I mean, he is transcendent — far above earthly problems and pains. He is perfect, so you would assume He’d have a successful marriage. He is all-knowing. Why would he marry if he knew it would end in divorce?
While many would argue that divorce is better than a bad marriage, I think it is a safe assumption that no one wishes to go through a divorce. Some might call divorce practical or logical*, but I think all of us hate that divorce happens. We cringe at the thought of kids without stability, men broken from harsh words, and women without a shoulder to lean on. We desire happy, fulfilled relationships without selfishness in either marriage partner.
That’s the Eden archetype we aspire to, anyway.
And if anyone would experience a perfect marriage, you would think it would be God.
As I’ve wrestled with this shocking aspect of God’s nature for several years now, I feel like this powerful marriage/divorce analogy has deepened my concept of God’s love.
1. God loves us enough to jump into relational mess.
A human relationship is by nature messy. Well, OK, you can have a problem-free, superficial relationship, but even that isn’t guaranteed. I mean, we humans get irate at the car beside us and frustrated with customers who are complete strangers. So, obviously, any intimate or deep relationship is going to have problems.
Love hurts. Period.
It hurts watching the one ones we love make mistakes and suffer the consequences.
It hurts to risk vulnerability and honesty, and then be rejected and criticized.
It hurts to expect open communication, strong commitment and instead experience disappointment.
And God chooses to deal with both the beauty and the pain. He embraces all of the ugliness that comes with relationships with humans.
2. God loves us enough to pursue us.
When I am going through a tough time, I withdraw. I avoid touch. I say “no” to invites. I leave early and say little.
When others reach out, I shut down. And yet, I suppose there is a small part of me hoping that someone will see past my facade, hug me, and listen.
Yet, all my actions erect huge barriers to prevent my friends from doing just that.
When I am on the other side (trying to provide support for a hurting friend who is shutting me out), I want to just give up. Why try to love if they just push me away?
Yet, God doesn’t give up.
In the Israel divorce analogy, Israel squanders God’s finances, rejects him for other men, and murders his children. She blatantly rejects God.
A divorce doesn’t get any uglier than that.
And while, yes, God lets her go and even sends her away, he longs for restoration. He remains faithful when we are unfaithful. He buys her back from the very slavery she sold herself into (Ezekiel 16:53, 59-63).
Aren’t these verses about restoration beautiful? “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…You will call me ‘my husband’ ” (Hosea 2:2, 14, 16).
3. God loves enough to leave.
Hosea tells the story of a prophet who mimics God’s marriage by marrying an adulterous wife and then buying her back after she leaves him. Yet, Hosea didn’t prevent her from selling herself into slavery (Hosea 1, 3).
In God’s symbolic marriage, he causes Israel to experience disgrace, poverty, rejection from her lovers, etc. (Hosea 2:3-13; Ezekiel 16:37-43; 23:22-35, 46-49).
In Hosea’s later prophecies, God says that he is a lion who tears Judah apart. He injures and then heals, wounds before bandaging (Hosea 5:12-6:3).
Unfortunately, we humans tend to have to learn things the hard way. It takes pain and despair to make us long for our lover. God knows that. Thus, he uses the situations we get ourselves into to make us want to return to him.
It’s incredibly encouraging to me to know that God loves me despite my heinous failures and constant rejection. Sometimes I subconsciously feel like I’ve abused or abandoned God so many times that surely he has gotten tired of me. I hate calling him up and asking for help because I expect him to finally say, “I’m done with you.”
It’s profoundly exhilarating to experience his healing restoration. After all, relationships, despite their constant messiness, are completely worth it.
*I disagree with this pragmatic perspective; God doesn’t always call us to do what is easy or “sensible” (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:20, 25; see also Matt. 19:6-9; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:11-13, 38; Romans 7:2-3; Hebrews 13:4; Malachi 2:16).
Tabitha Driver is a Mennonite who loves glimpsing God’s goodness on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She blogs at ultimatemetaphor.blogspot.com, where this post first appeared.
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