The world says “I Love You” in many ways—with chocolates and cards, maybe even flowers and a candle- lit dinner; not to mention, lingerie and sex.
How does that compare to the way God says, “I Love You”?
I’ve noticed that the love of God looks very little like the cards & chocolate the world gives out once a year. His love is much more involved. Sometimes, even shocking.
Hosea, a small book in the OT, portrays how shocking God’s love can be. In it, we find the story of a man who God told to take a prostitute for his wife. After their marriage, the wife returned to her earlier trade, yet her husband continued to love and pursue her, even though she was unfaithful to him. That example of unselfish, undeterred love gives a glimpse of how radically God loves His people.
In Hosea, God accuses the Israelites of chasing after lesser lovers by loving the things of the world rather than loving Him. And, in the middle of that story, we learn something about how God says, “I love you.”
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.
Hosea 2:14-15 MSG
I notice a few shocking things about God’s love message:
- He calls for a do-over. When we’ve made a mess of things, God gets to call a do-over. He doesn’t punish for the sake of justice, but . . .
- He does involve the wilderness. I’ve always thought of the wilderness experience as punishment. It’s not. It’s the most extravagant show of God’s affection—to take us out of the distractions of the world—to get us alone—to BE WITH HIM.
- God is jealous in His love toward us. He doesn’t want to share our love. He woos and wins us.
- We know He’s won our hearts when we find ourselves living in Acres of Hope rather than in Heartbreak Valley.
I came across these verses in Hosea a number of years ago, at a time when Heartbreak Valley was very real.
We were recovering from the tornado of 2004.
There was a farm in our area that was rundown and unkempt. It had been a grand farmstead years ago, but when a lazy son inherited it, he let it fall apart. The joke in the community was that you couldn’t tell it had been damaged by the tornado because it was nearly as bad BEFORE. That summer, the owners asked if we might like to purchase it; they were not interested in fixing it up and starting over. They wanted out.
We bought the property and began to clean it up, hoping to farm it the next year. We burned the house and buried the debris. I remember walking back and forth across that property, picking up garbage from someone else’s broken-down life and wondering . . . why am I cleaning up their mess?!
Reading those verses from Hosea 2 at that time, I wondered. Could God turn that rundown farm into Acres of Hope? I’m certain it was God alone who gave me hopeful thoughts about that property. We planted the homestead in grass and planned to sell it as an acreage to try to recoup our cost. But no one else seemed to catch my Acres of Hope vision, and it went unsold.
So we waited.
The farm land itself was depleted of nutrients and hadn’t been maintained. My husband (Shawn) planted and waited, trying to improve the farmland the best he could. Mediocre seasons passed, until Shawn, when looking at an aerial map of the property, noticed there was just enough room for a center- pivot irrigation system.
He decided to dig a well. Research into the geography of the area showed that water was not likely, and a nearby neighbor was especially skeptical. He had tried to find water three times without success. But Shawn was willing to take the risk. He was also willing to commit to prayer throughout the process.
As God would have it, right in the middle of Heartbreak Valley, was a great source of underground water. Today, the well we dug there, not only waters that property, but another field across the road. It’s a very good well.
The neighbor who couldn’t get water stopped by one day while Shawn was in the field. Bracing for the man’s criticism and crankiness, Shawn entered into a conversation. Sure enough, the man asked, “So how is it that I can dig three wells across the fence and get nothing, and you come along and find water?”
After a deep breath of courage, Shawn said, “Well . . . I prayed.” And they had a very good talk about prayer and faith.
“I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope,” says our loving God.
I wonder, as you look across the landscape of your life on the day after Valentine’s Day 2011 . . . is it a heartbreak valley you see or acres of hope?
I hope you understand today that God pulls you away from the world you’re used to, out into the wilderness with Him, because He wants ALL your attention. That kind of love can be shocking . . . it’s so unlike the cards and chocolate the world offers.
A God who is so shocking in His love for us is worth our trust. He knows what’s under the surface . . . the rest of the story. He knows just when the time is right to water your life so you thrive and flourish in acres of hope.
I invite you to listen to the song “How He Loves” by the David Crowder Band (linked below). It speaks of God’s jealousy and passion for our hearts. There’s one line at the end that says,
“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves.”
Living in Heartbreak Valley can leave us with lots of regrets. I’ve lived most of my life with far too many regrets, but God has been calling me out of there. I don’t want to waste time maintaining my regrets when I can be focusing on all the ways Jesus loves me.
If you have regrets today, maybe you’d like to offer those back to Him, then join me in remembering all the ways Jesus loves you.