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She was a girl with a reputation.

A prostitute? that’s what people said.  A promiscuous young woman? Without doubt. Clearly she was a high-risk marriage option. But he loved her. And he felt that God wanted him to marry her. So instead of another one-night stand followed by a Walk of Shame, she got a marriage proposal.

A girl with a reputation would be a fool to pass that up. She was working the oldest profession in the world. He was a well-respected community leader. So the wedding invitations were printed, the bridesmaids and groomsmen gathered, and the music swelled. The wedding feast celebrated new love.

The celebration was short-lived.

Apparently the only big change for her was the label on her behavior, not the behavior itself. The whore became an adulterer. Baby number one looked a little like her husband and an awful lot like the guy she’d been rumored to be with. Baby number two? Didn’t look like her husband at all. Baby number three? Had they even had sex in the past year? After all, she hadn’t slept at home in a long time. But he still loved her.

So goes the story of the prophet Hosea and his beloved but wandering wife, Gomer. The day comes when she’s not even living with Hosea. Either she’s sold herself into sex slavery, or she’s the mistress of another man. whatever the situation, it’ll take money to get her back this time. God actually tells Hosea to pony up the cash: “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites” (Hosea 3:1).

Is this love story about Hosea or Gomer?
Or about Yahweh and Israel?

It is about both. Just as your earthly love story is a picture of God’s love for His people. The deep romance of yada is not attained through the beauty and innocence of lovers. That’s baby love. That’s an unmessy beginning. An erotic yearning that wants something not yet fully known. Yada requires something more. It is realized in imperfections and craggy disfigurement, hidden beyond the unblemished innocence of not knowing. Yada knows. It knows the unwelcome, unsightly secrets–secrets that could rightfully prompt rejection. But yada overrides the logical desire to dismantle the wounded relationship. Yada reaches into the grace-filled depths of unconditional staying power and finds the strength to breathe life into love one more time.

Yada love is a faithful love.
A staying love.

Perhaps more than any of the other characteristics of yada, faithful love resonates deeply with my heart because it calls me to hope. Not just in Bob and Dannah. But in Jesus and Dannah. In Jesus and the oh-so-wounded church. Ezekiel wrote about this faithful love when he recorded these words:

Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you… So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know [yada] that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 16:60, 62

God’s relational and exclusive love illuminates a picture of hope in His covenant, which promises faithful love . . .

I’ve known this kind of love in my marriage. Like CPR for a lifeless body, forgiveness fills the emptiness of my spirit and rescues me from among the walking dead. Without the awareness of another spirit’s (Bob’s) knowing my deepest darknesses–along with my passionate desires–I’m not truly certain of my value to “be” at all. This is the heart of yada. To be known–just as we are–and still be pursued.

I knew that love this week. I was a sinful woman. It is always my tongue that trips me up. I say things I shouldn’t. I drop little bombs here and there that leave marks, and this week I dropped the Hiroshima of atomic bombs. I used my words to wound Bob with his past. It created a two-day standoff. In the end, we drove home from small group and sat in the driveway for a long talk in my black Envoy. there were a lot of tears. A lot of accusations. A lot of apologies.

And sometime during that gut-wrenching conversation, my heart became fully alive Somewhere in the depths of working it through, I knew I was faithfully loved. Still. Even though. Once again, yada triumphed, and we walked past the past. Past my PMS and his depression. Past my sexual brokenness, and his fight to be mentally pure before God. Past my uncontrolled anger and his lack of being present.

That’s yada.

How do I know that this brokenness, followed by hard staying power, is actually a part of yada? Hesed. Hesed is one of the words frequently used parallel to yada in the Old Testament. When you find a deep knowing (yada), you will often find hesed, which is to say you find deep friendship, unfailing love, loyalty, devotion, steadfastness, mercy. Hesed is faithful love.

Hesed is what makes yada a “staying love.” David called on God’s “staying love” when he was in deep darkness. He’d committed adultery with Bathsheba, then killed her husband in battle to cover up his sin. Upon discovery by the prophet, the king knew there was no forgiveness under the Law of Moses. He should have been stoned to death. But David cried out,

Have mercy [hesed] on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion…For I know [yada] my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Psalm 51:1, 3

Apparently God’s love trumped the law even back in the day. David lived and went on to be “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). Despite all his ugly secrets, God’s “staying love” closed the gap between them. That is the kind of love He wants you to know in marriage. My love life with Bob can be seen in these other love stories. We are…Gomer and Hosea. Israel and Yahweh. Dannah and Jesus.

We wander sometimes. Like Gomer strayed from Hosea. Like Israel strayed from Yahweh. Like Dannah strays from Jesus. But that is the beauty of faithful love. Because despite the flaws and offenses, we still are. I’m undeniable tethered to my Savior, and my grief is evidence of that. After countless spiritual seasons of victory and then some of being ever so broken in the battle, our love still is. That’s the staying power of yada.

Excerpt from What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex