I have always been fond of Gomer from the book of Hosea. This month is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and Gomer stands as one of Scripture's countless examples of intimate/sexual violence. She is my favorite because she refuses to submit to Hosea's authority over her body and thought. Despite his best efforts at punishment, Gomer holds herself back, refusing to be defined by his words and actions. By the end of chapter 2, Hosea has re-thought his position and offers reparations (the return of her garden). His vision of hope that she will return to love him in the way young lovers do is met with silence from Gomer--we are left as readers to wonder if she ever did choose to love Hosea again.
The book of Hosea is filled with powerful, but troubled, metaphors for Israel and her God. One of those metaphors is the Gomer and the prophet Hosea, joined as husband and wife in a troubled marriage. Go read Hosea 1-3. Every time I do, I come away disturbed by the images of violence. Many of us might justifiably say we want no part of a God who behaves like Hosea--and it's easy to find stories of God behaving violently in our scriptures. And yet, if the metaphor holds, we find at the end of Hosea 2 that Hosea and God have learned that love cannot be forced, and a body cannot be owned. I have much respect for any god or man or woman who learns that lesson, repents, and dares to risk loving again without violence.
(Really important note: know the cycles of abuse--there is a difference between the hard work an abuser must do to rework him or her self, and the honeymoon period that precedes further violence.)
Here are a few links to my pastor blog where I've written and preached about domestic violence before. I hope they bring you peace. But also below is the text from Song of Songs 2, which I imagine Gomer reciting to Hosea (as he flinched in disgust) as he stripped her naked and left her thirsting in the wilderness. No matter what we endure, there is a core of truth and resistance that cannot be taken from us; perhaps even God has learned that.
The Gomer Sermon
Shelter: The Church That Never Stops Talking
(includes links for several resources to help with domestic violence)
A Valentine for Those Who Fear
Why Gomer Married Hosea
I am a rose* of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens. 2
3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his intention towards me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples;
for I am faint with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me! 456