I wonder how many lovers have come to the point of breakup in their relationship, only to find a rising emotional heartbreak within them that might accompany words like, “But I can’t bear the thought of losing you!” Maybe you have had that very thought or used those very words at some point in your life.
But what if the relationship was outrageously lopsided? As in one-sided. What if the other person ignored you, spent more time with other lovers than you, insulted you, lied about you, and did almost the opposite of everything that would please or bless you. What then? Would you still have a hard time letting go, or would it be more like “Good riddance!”? Bob was with another woman every other night. When he came home, he would come home drunk more often than not, and complain or hurl expletives at his wife, Tonya. When she would protest or respond in any way, he would often backhand her. And yet she stayed with him.
Many of us have probably had friends or family members that are stuck in such relationships. They seem unable to leave the relationship despite abuse, neglect, infidelity, addictions, or illegal activity. Crazy, huh? But it’s not just couples. Many parents know the heartache and heartbreak of watching their kids’ lives spiral out of control and the sting of having those same children blame them for their troubles, but yet they never give up on them.
The crazy, mysterious thing about love: it doesn’t ever want to let go. Especially when it is all in. A person that has given themselves fully to a relationship, whether with a spouse or with a child, can’t let go because their life, their being, is bound up in that relationship.
But perhaps the craziest and most mysterious thing of all: God’s love is like that. He’s all in. Given everything, held nothing back, poured Himself out in full measure for folks that pretty much don’t care.
And yet, He won’t let go.
I recently read through the book of the Old Testament prophet Hosea. Dismal and wonderful little book. Almost the entire book is a chronicle of the infidelity of Israel, their persistent turning away from God and His fierce and jealous anger towards them – anger like that of a spurned lover. The breakup seemed unavoidable as chapter upon chapter tells of coming judgment. And then, halfway through chapter eleven….
“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?... My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger…I will not come in wrath.”
Crazy. Relentless. The love of God that won’t let go, won’t give up, won’t quit.
And the wrath? He dumped it on Himself.
“How can I give you up?” The love of God. Hope for the world.