Gomer

 — a monologue by Amy Walters

You know, there was a time when you wouldn’t dare associate with me. I had a bad reputation and it was well-deserved. But then everything changed, not because of something I did, but because I got something I never deserved.

I didn’t have any easy start to life—who could when your parents name you Gomer?  My father paid little attention to me.  In fact, I felt mostly invisible for many years.  But I learned how to get his attention.  I learned how to scheme and lie and manipulate and get almost anything I wanted.  Soon every interaction between us was laced with lies.  So he tired of my manipulations and resumed ignoring me, but I still craved the attention and the things I could get.  I sought out others to give me what I wanted.  I found men to feed my habits—no limit to the men I could use.  People began calling me a prostitute and at first their words hurt.  But then I thought to myself, “They’re just jealous of the power I have.  They hate me because I am beautiful.”

Needless to say, daddy wasn’t too happy with my new profession.  So when a prophet came out of nowhere and asked me dad if he could marry me, dad said yes without even asking me first. I guess he thought the prophet would reform me or something.  Whatever.  At first I was mad.  How could he just marry me off like that?  It was my life and I was doing just fine with it, thank you very much.  And what would a man of God want with me anyway?  He probably had some trick up his sleeve.

But honestly, deep inside, I was hurt by what people were calling me.  They thought I didn’t hear what they said behind my back.  They thought I didn’t notice the way they looked at me.  So I thought, “here is my chance to be somebody.  People won’t call me a prostitute anymore.  They’ll say I’m a good person.  I’d be Gomer, the prophet’s wife.’”  I could live with that.

And it really was great for a while.  Hosea was kind.  He didn’t nag me as much as I thought he would.  And he noticed me.  I didn’t have to manipulate or scheme—he was happy as long as I was trying.  Sometimes he would even bring me flowers.  Of course there was that thing about how our marriage was supposed to represent how God loves Israel.  But I knew other men who thought they were god and I could deal with that.  And honestly, I didn’t understand it at first.  To me, religion had always been nothing but a set of rules—the sacrifices, the Temple, the Law, everything.  I couldn’t figure out what a relationship had to do with it.

But I did try to please him.  I changed my appearance—any excuse for a shopping spree, really.  I got an entirely new look, longer dresses, less make-up.  I stopped hanging out with my old friends and tried my best to fit in with the religious people.  I played the part well.

Going from a prostitute to a prophet’s wife is not an easy process.  There were many people who refused to forget my past, no matter how hard I tried.  Their smiles turned to sneers the minute I turned my back.  I would walk past them at the Temple, hearing the cruel things they whispered about me.  I was always on the outside.  Hosea talked about the Temple as a place for healing and forgiveness, but all I found there was mocking.

Hosea and I had three kids together and you would never believe what he named them—Jezreel, after a famous massacre, Lo-ruhamah, meaning Not-loved, and Lo-ammi, meaning not my people.  Yeah, and you thought my name was bad.  I fell into a routine of caring for the kids and comforting them when others made fun of their names, cooking and cleaning, cooking and cleaning.  Money was really tight too.  I guess prophets don’t plan on getting rich.  I had thought life as a prophet’s wife would be exciting.  But let me tell you, there is nothing exciting about messy diapers and falafel.  The monotony of it wore on me.

I began reminiscing about the old days—I’d see my old friends at the market whom I had avoided at first in my effort at a new life.  But now I felt drawn to them.  I started talking with them and they would tell me all about what I was missing—the parties, the money, the men. I missed the adventure and freedom I once had and I started spending more and more time with my old friends and flirting with my old boyfriends.

When I’d return home from the market hours later, Hosea would ask where I’d been and I’d mumble an answer.  He wouldn’t ask me anything else, but for some reason I felt guilty.  Hmph, what right did he have to make me feel guilty?  I was just talking with my friends, is that such a crime?  I was totally in control.  I began to resent Hosea even though he was nothing but kind to me.

I started going to parties with my friends, telling Hosea I was meeting with the other prophet’s wives.  He bought it for a while, but when he discovered my lie, he confronted me on it.  I was furious.  “How could you spy on me like that?  I am a grown woman and I can go anywhere and do anything I want!”  And I stormed out of the house, slamming the door and waking the kids.  Let Hosea take care of their screaming for once.

After that I was more blatant with my flirting and partying and Hosea’s requests for me to stay home grew more insistent.  He kept telling me it was for my own good but I refused to listen.  I was convinced he was just trying to hold me back.  Looking back, I realize my instant defensiveness prevented me from seeing just how much trouble I was in.

Instead, I continued flirting.  There were times when the men I was with would stop footing the bill or get tired of my manipulations.  But when that happened, I would just run home to Hosea saying I was sorry.  I would tell him I had made a huge mistake and that I would never cheat on him again.  I would act like everything was back to normal, but as soon as I found another man to charm, I was back to the parties.  It got to the point that I was going back and forth between Hosea and my other men so much that I started to forget who gave me what.  Soon I was insisting that everything I had was payment from my lovers—that Hosea had given me nothing.

Things continued to get worse at home.  Hosea and I didn’t speak, the kids were a mess, always crying for their mother.  And every moment that I spent at home was plagued with guilt that soured my spirit.

It got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore.  One particular man and I had been joking for weeks about running off together and seeing the world.  Now our talks were turning serious.  So one day, I left for the market and didn’t come back.

Oh, it was wonderful for a while!  We traveled and saw the sights.  We went to parties and met fascinating people.  I finally had freedom.  Sure, there were times when I missed the kids and Hosea, but when that happened, I threw myself into my new life even more to drown it out.

Then one day, my immorality caught up with me.  The man I was with caught me flirting with another man.  He blew up and left town, stranding me in a strange place knowing no one.  But I was confident I could handle myself.  I found someone to buy me things and make me feel good.  And when he left, I found another one.  At first it made me feel powerful, like I could get anything I wanted and take care of myself.  But as I wandered from man to man, I grew weary.  It felt so empty, pleasing someone for a short while then being tossed aside and forgotten.  These men didn’t care about me; they were using me just like I thought I was using them.  Rejection became a way of life for me.  I started thinking about Hosea more, welcoming the memories of how he cared for me.  He didn’t treat me as an object but as a person.

Weariness began to show on my face too and it became harder to find men to give me what I wanted.  My whole life, my self-worth was grounded in my beauty, but that was quickly fading.  I was sinking lower and lower and didn’t care where the money came from as long as I had enough to buy food.  I began borrowing money when trading myself wasn’t enough and was soon deeply in debt.  I was no longer my own.  The parties and the friends from before were gone.  The glamorous life I had dreamed of now taunted me.  Now I had nothing left—no family, no friends, no money, no dignity.  I felt worthless.

I begged for memories of Hosea to distract me from my nightmare.  I remembered how he gave without demanding anything in return.  How he cared for me, how he found me when I was nothing and gave me everything.  I longed to go back to him, to beg his forgiveness, anything so that I could be with him and my children again.  But how could he ever forgive me after what I had done?  How could he erase the shame that I brought on him. No, going back would only open me up for more heartache.

Then the time came when my owner had enough of me.  He was taking me to another town to sell me to the highest bidder.  When I learned this would take place in my own hometown, I was terrified.  What if Hosea found out and came to mock me?  It was bad enough being sold like a piece of property, but he had to sell me in the place I had lived for years?  In front of the people I saw at the market each day?  People who used to be my friends?  I couldn’t face them like this.  No!  I wanted to run, hide, escape, anything to avoid the disgrace that was about to come.

But I couldn’t.  And the day came.  I stood in line behind the platform, waiting my turn, wishing I was anywhere but there.  The line in front of me grew shorter.  Suddenly I heard my name called, they were shoving me onto the platform.  I was so terrified I tripped and fell on the top stair, sending a wave of laughter through the crowd.  I struggled to my feet while my owner cursed at me.  The bidding began.  I didn’t pay attention to the crowd—I didn’t want to look up and see face I knew.  Very few people showed any interest in a worn out prostitute like me.

But then, I heard a voice I recognized.  My body tensed as I heard him bid.  The burning tears I had been fighting back all day came streaming down my face.  I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t him.  Why would he be here?  Why would he care?  Another man placed a bid, but the familiar voice counter bid.  They were in a bidding war.

My mind raced to think of why he would be doing this.  Did he want to take revenge?  Did he need a slave?  Did he want to shame me for what I did to him?  Suddenly, I heard him call out, “Fifteen shekels of silver and nine bushels of barley!”  Sold to the highest bidder.

I couldn’t bear to look up.  I felt like I was going to vomit.  Hosea made his way through the crowd as I could hear people say, “Isn’t that Hosea’s wife, Gomer?  The one who ran away?  He’s going to give her what she deserves.”  My former master shoved me toward the stairs and my feet descended them against my will.  And there he was, the man I had rejected.  The man I had injured far beyond what he deserved.  I expected a slap in the face.  But no, what’s this?  He’s taking his cloak off, he’s wrapping it around me.  My legs give way, but he catches me before I hit the ground.  I begin to sob and through my tears, I beg for forgiveness, knowing I have no right to it.  My throat aches as I promise to be a faithful servant.  Then he does the last thing in the world that I would ever expect.  He pulls me close and brushes my hair away from my face.  He begins wiping away my tears as he himself starts to cry.  I start to beg forgiveness again but he hushes me.  And all he says is, “I love you.”

He loves me? He loves me.  HE LOVES ME!  Was it, was it true?  Did he really love me?  But even as I questioned it, I knew it was true.  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.  I had nothing beautiful about me to attract him, I had nothing to offer him but a broken life.  But none of that mattered.  He still loved me.

For the first time in my life I realized what true love is.  It’s not a strange feeling in the pit of your stomach, not a feeling of attraction, not merely being happy.  Real love has substance.  It stays when I leave.  It is strong when I am weak.  It is faithful when I cheat.  It stretches beyond feeling and roots itself in commitment.  It looks beyond the mess I am and sees what I can become.  It is irresistible.  This love welcomed me home and made me wonder how I could have ever left.  How could I have thought there was anything better than this?

That moment changed my life. And let me tell you something, it can change your life too. Maybe you have never experienced true love before, or you have settled for a substitute, or you have taken for granted the love you have experienced for years.  If so, listen to me and let me tell you about a love even greater than my husband Hosea’s.  Like I said, my marriage was supposed to represent God’s relationship with His people. He chose us, not because we deserved it, but because He, himself is love. And even when we mess up, even when we reject Him, He still wants us back. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how long you’ve done it, or what it’s going to cost to come back, He is waiting to welcome you with open arms. There is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you less.

Today is the time to accept that love. Today is the time to celebrate and pour out your gratitude. Because we don’t deserve it, but we can’t live without it.

(c) 2005 Amy Walters

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