“Eventually, I lost everything. My job, my friends, my home, my family. At the time, I didn’t think my choices were hurting anyone but me, but I was wrong. I had no idea how wrong I was until it was too late.”
As a chaplain, I’ve heard this lament far too many times. Sometimes I wish I could record it and play it for people who are at the beginning of a series of bad decisions, as if hearing about someone else’s destroyed life would stop them from destroying their own. But that isn’t the nature of consequences. No, consequences must be experienced to be effective. Rare is the person who learns from someone else’s mistakes.
And yet Hosea tells Israel’s story in the desperate hope that we will hear it and not make the same error. The sword rages in their cities…and devours because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me (vv. 6-7a). At times we have heard these words as prescriptive, as if God is punishing the Israelites for their disobedience. But I find them to be far more powerful when I hear them as a descriptive reality: because of the choices Israel made, they will experience these consequences.
We will lose what we think of as home. We will be captive to a way of life we didn’t really want. We will not see the future as hopeful, but as full of the same despair over and over again. Choosing to follow any other voice but God’s will lead us down a path we don’t want to follow.
It’s not that the future can’t be rewritten. It’s not that life can’t come after death or hope after disappointment. Indeed, that is what the good news is all about. It’s just that, sometimes, we have to live with the wrong choice before we can make the right one.
Are you in the middle of living with a wrong choice? What will it take for you to make the right one?
God of second chances…and third, and fourth, and hundredth…I am humbled by your love that keeps calling me back again and again. This time, I want to make the right choice, and I want to stay faithful to it. Amen.