I am delighted to post a guest blog from one of my favorite people on earth – my son, Miles Macleod. This is a beautiful, timely message that really resonated with some of the deep stirrings that God is bringing to the surface in my own life. I know you will enjoy it too!
Several months ago, my pastor preached from the Book of Hosea. The story goes something like this: Hosea, a respected prophet, is told by God to marry the neighborhood prostitute, Gomer. Despite Hosea’s best efforts to change her behavior through love and mercy, Gomer remains unrepentant. She repeatedly runs away to the homes of other men, leaving Hosea humiliated. His humiliation only grows, I imagine, when God tells him to go and retrieve his disgraceful wife in the opening lines of chapter 3: “And the LORD said to me, “Go again…’”
The story is meant to represent the relationship between God and Israel. Through a Christian lens, the story also embodies Jesus’ relationship with his church. We run. He retrieves. Repeat.
The sermon made me uncomfortable. My own story of salvation, 20 years of running and returning, shares many similarities with the story’s foil. I am Gomer with a better name. But that’s not what made me uneasy. I am well aware of my Gomer-like faith and my tendency to worship at the altar of my own agenda. Sadly, I am even comfortable in this role. I, the sinner. God, the redeemer. What made me uncomfortable, then, was something else. I wasn’t sure at the time, but I know it now: it was the redemptive call of Christ. Whereas God of the Old Testament pleads with the people of Israel to stop being a bunch of Gomers, Christ demands that His people become a bunch of Hoseas:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Teaching is a great profession. I really mean it. I have been doing it for nearly a decade, and there is a lot I love about it. It is especially great for masochists and Christians. In addition to all the benefits, like summers off and working with teens, there is ample opportunity to answer God’s command to “Go again.” On normal days, students want to fall asleep whenever I talk. On the more memorable ones, they might swear at me, flip over a desk at me, or tell their parents on me. Two of them even wanted me dead; I know because they told me so.
If you don’t teach, don’t worry. There are probably still people that hate you. If not, there are certainly those that mock you, that make you look bad, that find pleasure in your pain, or just like to see you wrong. No? Well certainly, there has to be someone that makes you feel awkward, that gives you the heebie-jeebies, or someone whose company you just can’t stand to keep. Or maybe you have children? If they are like mine, they are sometimes ungrateful and rude and selfish and loud and ungrateful and petty and lazy and ungrateful and mean. Did I mention they can be ungrateful?
Here’s my point. We are constantly sinned against. And if you are like me – stubborn and prideful – you do what I do – refuse to be made the fool. Seven years ago, when my principal observed my class for the first time, he gave me two words of advice: less sarcasm. Thanks Sherlock.
Seven years later, I still get defensive when I am wronged. And seven years later, God is still waiting for me stop being such a Gomer.
I’m not the one who said those awful things. He crossed the line. I will be the bigger person and treat him fairly – that is what I am paid to do – but I am not gonna go out of my way to help him.
I hold the door open for every person, I clean up their trash, I take time out of my weekends just to serve them, and I can’t even get a single thank you. Not even the pastor says thank you.
I don’t mind being nice to her. I will even watch her dog if she needs me to. But she smells like an ashtray and cusses like a sailor; I can’t have her over for dinner around my kids.
He was only supposed to stay a night, and it’s been three weeks, and he doesn’t do anything to help out. He’s putting a strain on my marriage. God, please give me the courage to ask him to leave.
No one ever recognizes all the sacrifices that I make around here!
It would be one thing if God asked Hosea to forgive his unfaithful wife or to be the bigger person in their broken marriage. Even that would be radical enough, right? But he doesn’t. He asks Hosea to pursue her. To leave himself vulnerable to humiliation and rejection. This type of love is the most selfless of all. God’s love. It gives nothing in return. There are no conditions or Plan Bs based on the initial response. There is just one plan, repeated over and over and over until God declares that it is finished: Go again.
And this is what made me uneasy as I listened to the sermon and understood God’s call. Hosea made me uneasy: his unflinching obedience, his humiliation, his devotion, his perfectly good name dragged into the gutter; his perfectly intact pride assaulted by man and by God. It made me so uneasy that I couldn’t forget it, and it stayed with me for the next few months. It was there when I walked into my school each morning: Go again. It was there when I wanted to yell at my children: Go again. And it was there when I was too scared to make myself vulnerable and offer a stranger some help: Go again.
At the end of last school year, in early June, it was there when my department chair asked the English teachers to write a letter to ourselves. The letter would be sealed and delivered to us at the end of the summer. The purpose, I suppose, was to remind ourselves of something important that we might forget once removed from the refining furnace of public education. Most teachers wrote practical reminders about resources or planning techniques. Others wrote something like a pep talk.
A few weeks ago I found the letter on my desk in room 1511 as I was setting up for the new school year. It was still in the envelope as promised, placed there by the department chair. I didn’t need to read it. I already knew what it said, so I picked it up, threw it in the trash, and began arranging desks, anticipating the new groups of students that would be coming any day.