Confessions of an Unfaithful Spouse
There is a scandalous story in the Bible that might seem like it’s more for married folk, but in reality it’s for all of us: single, married, young, old—that is, if you’re human this story is for you. It’s the story of Hosea and Gomer.
Hosea is a prophet that God commissions to go and marry “a woman of whoredom”—Gomer—and to have children with her. God offers no promise to Hosea that Gomer will change. In fact, the whole point of God telling Hosea to marry Gomer is to show that even though God’s people are continually unfaithful, He (God) remains faithful—time and time and time again. As the story progresses, Gomer repeatedly cheats on her husband, abandoning her marriage covenant over and over. On more than one occasion, Hosea goes and finds her in bed with another paying customer and lovingly brings her home. Gomer remains unfaithful “as long as they both shall live.”
I’ll admit, I used to mainly put myself in Hosea’s place (“I already love others like this, and I’ll never be the unfaithful whore in the story!”). After all, my plan was to get married once, never divorce, and certainly never cheat on my spouse or be cheated on. In other words, my plan all along was to keep the 7th commandment: “Thou shall not commit adultery.” So much for my plans.
I got married for the first time at 20 years old. Young and idealistic, I never dreamed that my marriage would turn out the way it did.
There was a crushing stage in the eleventh year of that marriage when I was the women caught in adultery. Yes, I cheated on my first spouse. My selfish choices devoured my superficial attempt to never break the 7th Commandment. That marriage ended in divorce.
As a result of my infidelity, the consequences were horrific. I vowed to be a faithful wife should I ever get the chance to marry again.
On the heels of my divorce, I married the man I had an affair with. In light of what I had learned about myself and the mistakes that I made, I entered my second marriage on a mission not to repeat my failures as a wife. This time around, I succeeded on my end of the deal, but my spouse didn't. I found myself forced into a divorce I didn’t ask for, single for the first time as an adult, and struggling to cope with the massive destruction all around me.
I began a long and painful process of personal and relational recovery in every area of my life. A major priority for me became shedding the negative stigma of a twice divorced, adulterous, faulty wife. It was debilitating to retell the stories over and over while being vulnerable and trying to trust any possible suitor. It was embarrassing, excruciating and exhausting. I believed I had been more Gomer in my first marriage and more Hosea in my second. Knowing both sides of that dirty coin created a longing to love and be loved in the way Hosea was commanded to love Gomer. It also made me cautiously steer clear of drama, potential repeats, or reason for further Gomer-ish labels to be attached to me.
After my second divorce, I had over four years of recovery before meeting my third (and final!) husband, Tullian. We met virtually as pen pals soon after his own dreadful experience with infidelity and he was reeling as the same dirty, two-sided coin now jingled in his pocket. As our friendship grew and became increasingly romantic, my vision of having a “cleaned-up record” was torn to shreds yet again. Because he is a public figure, his personal crash and burn was not private. So my arrival at “ground-zero” became a point of speculation filled with assumptions. My hope for a drama-free relationship was therefore blown to smithereens. In addition, because our relationship began after he and his first wife were separated but before their divorce was final, my Gomer label resurfaced.
Looking back, there are numerous ways I could have avoided the scarlet letters I earned. For example, I could have not cheated on my first husband. I could have postponed the development of my romantic relationship with Tullian until after his divorce was final. I could have been more faithful and loving to others in the decisions that I made for myself. And I deeply regret the pain that I have caused others because of my Gomer-ness.
But there isn’t anything I could ever do, and no amount of “enough” I can ever be, to keep from earning the unwanted badges of unfaithfulness that God’s Law justly delivers to me. I now realize that I had broken the 7th commandment in my heart long before I ever cheated on my first husband. It turns out that I was completely ignorant of the fact that God requires us to be flawlessly faithful, sinlessly selfless, and perfectly loving on the outside and the inside ALL THE TIME. The only thing I was capable of, and am still capable of, is whoring around on my One True Love along with the rest of humanity just like the book of Hosea explains.
Gomer. That’s me.
I’ve cheated on God more times and in more ways than I can conceive in the most shameful, trust-trashing, relationship-obliterating ways. I’ve searched the world and the internet for someone better than Him. I’ve lied to Him countless times about where I was going, who I was meeting, and how far it had gone. Daily I’ve squandered the unmatched treasures of His trustworthy affections and never-ending care for complete crap. I’ve religiously treated His ultimate sacrifice as if I deserved every drop of it.
No matter how well I behave, how much time I spend cleaning up my life, how far I get from the first and second divorce, from the rumors and the gossip and the truth, I am a rotten sinner in desperate need of a risen Savior. Even my best good deeds and days merit no mercy, are no grounds for grace, and provide no foundation for forgiveness. I am in a constant state of needing and receiving completely undeserved grace.
My perceived faithfulness does not fool God. Neither does yours. He isn’t tricked by our attempts to earn our way in, or present grand facades of good-enough character. He knows all of the ugly truth and yet still He takes us back every time we run to anothers arms. He doesn’t just accept us after we’ve stopped our sordid secrecy and cleaned ourselves up.
No, He goes further. In fact He devotedly goes all the way.
While we are still naked in the bed, embracing all that is wrong and rejecting all that is True, He eagerly climbs in and says, “I Love you and want you and accept you and forgive you, come home with me my Beloved.”
We can’t remove what God has covered us with. What binds us to Him no matter how far we run is a thick red, soul-cleansing, sin-removing blood that can’t be unseen or removed. We are all Gomer, and He is our Perfect Hosea.
No matter how faithful we believe we are to others and God, the truth is we all shatter promises, fail at faithfulness, disturb dependability, sever the sacred, and wreck relationships. The Good News is that because of what Jesus has done, our total unfaithfulness is hidden in His complete faithfulness. Nothing can separate us from this unfair truth. Instead of our earned scarlet letters, He assigns us His own personal stainless, sinless, white robe made from threads of Perfection, Righteousness, Faithfulness and Holiness.
He knew we would all be Gomers, so God made one acceptable for us all: Jesus.