We “met” another “neighbor” last night on a family walk around the block. But let me back up just a little bit. We had just finished dinner with a friend and as we sat on the front porch, enjoying what finally felt like spring weather in mid-May, I commented on the peacefulness of our neighborhood and the frustration that everyone perceives it as so scary. Armed with roller blades, skateboard and the dog on her leash, we decided to enjoy the lovely evening with a family stroll. As we got to the end of our short part of the street, a BMW SUV blaring music (not unusual) drove past with a white college boy and an Auburn license plate (unusual). The reality is, though I hate to admit it, you can still identify those who “don’t live here” and worse, the reason most of those outsiders have made a stop in the neighborhood. It isn’t usually to plant flowers or to visit a shut in.
As we continued on down the street, we had some invigorating short visits with neighbors we know and love. Then, we passed the ominous two houses that everybody seems to know as the drug and prostitute houses. Sure enough, cars were pulling in and out even in our short walk. When a white girl, with messy hair and clearly crack abused teeth passed us on the way to those houses, all parties were a little surprised. She affectionately acknowledged Ellie with a “hey chica” just before cussing out the guy we’d just passed in front of said houses for being late. She could also be overheard (because she was yelling) telling him not worry about us but to deal with her. Hmmm. There was another dramatic exchange between the two in front of our house an hour later and then, this morning as I ran down the busier street around the corner, sure enough there she was again, and there he was waiting in a parking lot for her.
Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. Hosea 1:10-11
The “yet” is that Hosea was to marry a prostitute, Gomer, who was certain to be unfaithful and grossly adulterous. Her wickedness made her justly identified as “not my people”. But God was telling a more extraordinary story. He calls her, and Rahab, and me, “children of the living God”. Teeth yellowed by crack abuse, a body trashed by dirty and hateful men, and choices not to escape but to settle in to this lifestyle because on some level, its just easier. To God, these women, and ultimately the rest of us as we see ourselves in them, are His Beloved. He sees past the teeth and hair, past the dead eyes and the bitter words, past the mismatched and ill fitting attire to the heart of the one he loves.
But now listen, Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says— he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel. Is. 44:1-5