Hosea Bails Out Gomer
The Story of Homer's Love for His Wayward Wife, An Analogy of God's Love for Israel
By Sam Wright
The bail bondsman takes the $1,000 in cash from my trembling hand. It was all I could do to scrape the money together. I had to sell the X-Box, the microwave, and my new laptop.
The kids pitched in. Jessie sold his baseball card collection on E-bay. Lora emptied her piggy bank. Amos offered his shiny red bike, with the training wheels still on it. We sold it to the neighbors. It broke my heart.
The kids did not mind. They would give up anything to get their mommy back. But will she come home?
I take the two younger ones by the hand back to the car. Jessie follows. We climb in the rusty old Chevy minivan and drive slowly to the parking lot of the jail a few blocks away.
The kids have not seen her for three years. But they still love her. And so do I. I know that sounds crazy after all she's done to the kids and to me. I was granted full custody of the kids in the divorce. She did not fight me on that. In fact, she did not even show up in court that day. She sent a young attorney. I wonder how she paid him—probably like she paid all the others.
The bail bondsman meets us by the heavy metal door of the jail. He posted bail for $10,000.
A silent deputy hands me a tray for me to put in my wallet, my keys, my phone, and my belt. He then waves an electronic wand over me—and even over the kids. Lora thinks it’s funny. The deputy leads us down a dark gray hallway into a waiting room. "Please take your seats in the waiting room," the deputy instructs us. Lora is still pretending to wave a wand over her little brother.
Then the deputy at the desk announces, "Bail has been posted for prisoner number 257396, charged with prostitution and possession of narcotics." He seems to take delight in reading the charges.
Then he turns toward me and says with a smirk, "We're sure gonna miss her." I clench my fists.
But my fury is interrupted by a tug on my sleeve, Amos says, "D-d-d-d-addy, w-w-w-what's a na-na-na-narcotic?" He has stuttered since his mother left.
Before I can answer, Jessie rebukes him in a hoarse whisper, "It's drugs, stupid."
I glare at him and bark, “Jessie!”
"Sorry, Amos, I didn't mean it," he tells his little brother.
Jessie understands more than I would like.
Sometimes one of the kids in school will tell Jessie that his mom is a whore or a hooker. He doesn't know what to say. He answers with his fists, which makes things worse.
I will never forget the day I picked up Lora from school and she asked me, “What’s a bastard?” She was in kindergarten and one of the kids told her she and her brothers were all bastards. So all of the kids started calling her "bastard" until the teacher put a stop to it.
Yes, I admit I may not be their father biologically. I think Jessie is my son. I was a fool to think that such a woman would be faithful to me given her past.
We met when I was a college student working in the soup kitchen where our church volunteered. As I dipped the aluminum ladle into the steamy beef stew, I looked at the face of each person with a smile, while filling their bowl. I wanted them to know that God loved them just as they were.
When I first looked into her eyes, I was stunned by her youth. She was only 16. Her red dress was too tight and too short. But she was beautiful. The thick eyelashes and purple eye shadow hid her beauty more than highlighted it. Her eyes were wild and defiant.
On Wednesdays at the soup kitchen, we invited all who came to eat the noon meal to stay for a time of teaching and Bible study.
I remember the first time she stayed. It was months after I had first met her. Her eyes were no longer defiant and wild, but hollow. She was tired. Yet there was a sense of longing or yearning about her. She was searching.
For months she attended the Wednesday afternoon services off and on. One afternoon she asked us to pray with her so she could make a new start with God. She wanted to know God’s love and grace that we had been talking about. We prayed with her. She poured out her heart to God.
Immediately her life changed. She began to wear light colors and longer dresses. She moved in with one of the ladies from our churches. She found a job in a grocery store.
She began singing in the church choir. When she sang about her love for God and how God had forgiven her, there was not a dry eye in the congregation.
We began dating my last year in seminary. When I asked her to marry me, she was stunned. She did not think that any man, especially a man who knew something of her past, would ever want to marry her.
But I had prayed about it and had peace that this was what God wanted, that she was the one for me. I said, "God has forgiven you and that's good enough for me." We were married six months later after I graduated from seminary.
I was appointed as pastor of a two-point charge in the country about forty miles away from the nearest town of any size. We had many good times together. But we struggled financially. Together, the churches only paid minimum salary and I was trying to pay back my student loans. My wife seemed happy. She sang in the choirs in both churches. Everybody liked her.
In order for us to make ends meet, she took a job in the nearest city. She had always been interested in medicine and was thrilled when she was hired by the hospital. She would be trained to be an emergency medical technician. I encouraged her.
The only problem was that her shift ended at midnight. She would not get home until one or two in the morning.
The loud electric buzz jolts me from my memories and unlocks the door. The guard drags the thick steel door open. She stands at the threshold dressed in a faded orange jumpsuit. She looks small. Her eyes dart here and there but not toward us.
I nervously stand to my feet as she appears in the doorway of the jail. The kids stand too. The female deputy unlocks the handcuffs from her wrists. Then she stoops to unlock the chains on her ankles.
Jessie turns to me as if to ask what he should do.
I try to reassure him with a smile.
The same smile I gave him when I held him by his mother's side in the delivery room. He was so alert and I was so proud.
Now his face betrays the trauma of a ten-year-old boy who has just seen his mother unshackled for the first time. I have seen it before.
Even before Jessie was born, she had been arrested for prostitution. After one of her midnight shifts on the ambulance, she had driven into the city. It was not the first time she had not come home. But this time she got caught.
I drove the two hours in the pouring rain to bail her out. I cried all the way. There were times in our marriage when I was so desperate and angry that I pleaded with God to take her life or mine so my pain would stop.
Then the kids came along. We kept up a façade of a marriage. I did my best to put on a good show and hide my shame and humiliation as well as my anger.
After the divorce, I was appointed to another church. We had not seen her or heard from her for three years.
Then it happened. In prayer one day, I heard God say clearly, "Go redeem your wife."
I protested, "I have no wife. She left me, remember. We are divorced." But for days I could not get the thought out of my head. "Go redeem your wife."
I talked to my counselor and to my district superintendent. They were supportive, but neither thought it was a good idea. My parents thought I was losing my mind to want her back. They had lived the nightmare with us.
Finally, I talked to the kids. Maybe kids are a little more like God than we adults are. All three thought it was a wonderful idea. Even though Amos could barely remember her, he too, wanted to give his mommy another chance.
The deputy drops her ankle shackles on the concrete floor. The clanging brings me back to the present.
She does not move even though the shackles are off. She stares at the floor. Her gaze is hollow, drained of all love and goodness, drained of any defiance and wildness. Just empty.
The kids are frozen beside me. I have to make the first move. But I can't. "God," I pray, "This is too hard. My heart has been broken too many times. I can't do this."
I close my eyes and one image floods my mind. I see Jesus hanging on a rugged cross, arms stretched out and hands nailed to the wooden beam. His face is filled with pain but also with compassion. I hear him say, "Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing."
As I open my eyes, I realize I have actually stretched out my arms like Jesus. The kids have been watching me for a cue. To my surprise they have put their arms out by their sides like mine. We stand, a family ready to be betrayed and crucified all over again.
Tears are streaming down my face. Then moved completely by divine compassion, I slowly bring my arms forward inviting her to come. I manage to smile at her through my tears and nod to her that she is welcome home.
But will she come?