When I was home for Christmas Break my freshman year of college, I couldn’t sleep one night. I tossed and turned until I finally got up around 12:30 a.m. I had been laying there and the phrase, “Redeeming Love” popped into my head. This phrase wasn’t a mystery to me. I knew that I had a book by the same title that I had shelved without reading. I think it was a Christmas gift from a few years back that I just never cracked open. I found it on my shelf and just started reading.
Seven hours later I was still reading. I forced myself to sleep for a few hours, but then got up at noon to finish the book. Redeeming Love is over 400 pages, mind you. When I finished, I cried. I mean cried. Not because it was over…well maybe part of it was that…but because of the story. As promised in my most recent Saturday Snaps, today I’m going to share with you what Redeeming Love did in my life and why you should read it, too.
“‘Lord,’ he said heavily. ‘Lord, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.’ But he knew he was going to marry that girl anyway.” (Rivers, 1997, p. 56)
Redeeming Love is a retelling of the Biblical book of Hosea. This story, set in 1800s California, focuses on Angel, a beautiful young woman who was sold into prostitution at eight years old. After being raped repeatedly by an older man whom she was owned by, she escaped nearly 10 years later to a town called Pair-a-Dice in gold country to work again as a high-priced prostitute. One day, a man named Michael Hosea sees Angel out on a stroll by the loading docks and is enamored with her beauty and stoic demeanor. Michael, a God-fearing, virginal farmer, hears God tell him that he is to marry Angel the prostitute who thinks God only wants to ruin her life. She is understandably uninterested in having anything to do with God after watching her prostitute mother pray to God, who seemed silent, and die nearly homeless. But one day, after nearly dying, Angel wakes up in Michael’s home and slowly, but surely she learns the role of a farmer’s wife. Struggling with opening her heart to love for fear of being used or disappointed, Angel must choose if she wants to dive into the unknown of a marriage with a seemingly good man, or return to the only life she’s ever known for her own pride.
“She was guilty of being born. Her own father had wanted her cut out of her mother’s womb and thrown away like garbage. Her own father. And Mama would have done it had she known she would lose him over her small defiance. All those years of endless weeping had told Angel that. No, not a hundred dawns like this, not even a thousand, would change what was. The truth was there forever, just like Duke said in the dream. You can’t get away from it. No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape the truth.” (Rivers, 1997, p. 140)
This story is disturbing, heartbreaking, anxious and touching. It’s a romance between a man and a woman, yes. But more than that, it is a picture of God’s love for us. Sinners who keep running away from him for our own foolish reasons or temporary satisfactions of freedom, only to be pursued by the only One who can truly set us free. The story of love between Angel and Michael is a breathtaking picture of the marriage covenant. However, it is overshadowed by the love story of God and Michael, and God and Angel. Although they are two very different people, you’ll soon find yourself identifying with both. Pride, doubt, idolatry and anger are themes throughout. True to the title, however, God shows both Angel and Michael His patience, consuming love, salvation and omniscience.
When the story ends, you will find yourself analyzing your own habits of doubt and sin. I found myself, book in hand, in tears of thanks of God’s great sacrifice of the cross and my extreme remorse for every sin I’ve ever committed. Without the cross, little girls sold into sex slavery by foolish adults would spend eternity with no escape from their sins. They would never be free from the guilt, disgust, blemishes, anger and worthlessness they feel because of their lives. We, all of humanity, would not be free from any of our sins, no matter how small we think they are. Jesus gives us more chances than we deserve because He loves us. Plain as that. He already paid the price to take the weight from our mucky lives and all He needs is us to hand it over to Him by confessing with our mouths and believing in our hearts.
“‘I don’t believe in some little, shriveled up old man in a long white beard sitting on a throne looking over me.” He chuckled. “Neither do I. I believe in something a lot bigger than that. And I’ll tell you something else.” His smile was gentle. “Just because you don’t believe in the Lord doesn’t mean his power isn’t working for you.'” (Rivers, 1997, p. 417)
We all can have a story of redeeming love. It’s not just Angel’s or Gomer’s story. That’s what makes it so beautiful, real and relatable. I know that I can put myself in that story and it still makes sense. The ending is still the same.
God gave me that book at a perfect time in my life. I was about to make mistakes, feel sorry for myself, hide my struggles and pretend I was okay. Often I would think of this story, something I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not read it that December night. It helped me pour into the Lord instead of running away from Him because I thought He didn’t care. When I was making my list of 100 Things I Want From Life, He put it on my heart to read Redeeming Love at least once a year for the rest of my life. This story never gets old because it’s my story too. I can never be reminded enough of His purpose, power and plan and I never want to forget that.
If you want to read Redeeming Love, you can purchase it here or at Barnes & Noble in the Christian fiction section. Please, please read it. No matter age or gender, it will change your life. At least, it did mine. Don’t forget to read the book of Hosea as well. I think part of the reason it is so moving is because it’s a retelling of a Biblical book and God is in it already. Grab your tissues and maybe a stress ball and crack it open.
“She trembled in fear and could not move. He reached out and touched her, and she felt warmth encompassing her and the fear dissolving away. She looked down and herself and found she was clean and clothed in white.” (Rivers, 1997, p. 399)
Rivers, Francine. Redeeming Love. Sisters, Or.: Multnomah, 1997. Print.
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Holly Hoehner has her bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Oklahoma. She considers herself more of a Russell Westbrook than a Kevin Durant and enjoys learning about and participating in the digital age, blogging about anything that comes to her mind and creating witty Instagram captions. Holly was raised a die-hard Sooner fan in Edmond, OK.