My name is Amy.
I was born on a Sunday, and a week later I was in church.
There’s a date in 1989 inscribed in the front my first Bible, marking the day I decided to follow Jesus. But almost 25 years later, I can’t say that I recall praying that prayer in my Wednesday night preschool class at church. All I know is that for as long as I can remember, serving Jesus has been an essential part of my life.
When I was five years old, we moved from my hometown of Jefferson City to Springfield, Missouri so that my dad could attend ministry school. My parents must have had some doubts and fears when they packed up and left everything they knew to be obedient to God, but if they did, I never saw it. I saw my parents clinging to God’s promise and his ability to provide for us even when our finances were stretched thin.
My parents love God with their whole hearts, and their love for Him poured out into love for each other and for me and my younger sister, Katie. We grew up in a happy and stable home, where it was easy to believe that God was good and trustworthy. We were good girls.
As a kid, I loved going to church. I loved studying the Bible and I was enthusiastic about serving the Lord. In elementary school, I was on a Bible trivia team, and one of the first Bible passages I memorized was Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” At the time, my primary motivation for learning this verse was the 30 points I would earn in competition, but it remains one on my favorites to this day. There is nothing in the world that can separate us from God’s love. What a promise!
In high school, after having moved on from Bible quizzing, I became a serious student of God’s word to know Him better. It was around this time that I discovered the story of Hosea.
Hosea was a prophet, and in ancient Israel, God often asked prophets to do strange things. He told Ezekiel to make a model of the city of Jerusalem and lay siege to it. He told Jeremiah to make a yoke, a harness used on animals, and wear it himself.
But Hosea? God told Hosea to marry a prostitute.
So Hosea did. Gomer had three children while she was married to him, children he most likely did not father, because she couldn’t quite escape her old life. Hosea could have had her stoned for adultery, in accordance with Jewish law. But that isn’t what God had Hosea do.
The Lord said, “Go, show love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.” (Hosea 3:1)
I was floored by this metaphor for God’s unwavering love towards his rebellious people. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in many ways it prepared my heart for the man God knew would be my husband.
Jason and I met when he was hired as the middle-school youth pastor at my church. I was a junior in college at the time, getting ready to leave for a semester studying abroad in Volos, Greece. Our shared love for youth ministry allowed us to become fast friends, but because I was going away, I didn’t put much stock in our relationship.
My semester in Greece, while enriching, was difficult. Of the twenty-one students in our study abroad class, I was the only Evangelical Christian. Growing up in church, I had no context for how to serve God when you couldn’t go to church on Sunday, and receive encouragement from other believers. It was a lonely time in many ways, but two things sustained me: God’s Word, and Jason’s letters.
I was disciplined in praying and reading the Bible like I had never before, and God’s word came alive to me in a new way that Fall. Psalm 119:9 says, “If your word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction,” and that was true for me that semester. If not for the sustaining power of God’s word, I don’t know how I would have made it. Jason’s encouragement was invaluable also. He gave me advice, sent me gifts, sought my opinion, and reminded me that I was never alone.
Within weeks of my return to the United States, we began dating.
Not everyone who knows us knows that my husband was married once before he was married to me. It’s not a secret or something we try to hide – Jason had biblical grounds for leaving a woman who was deceived by the enemy and had broken the vows she’d made to him. His life is vastly different now.
It’s a testimony to God’s glory and power that Jason’s life is so far removed from what it had been. Nothing brought me greater joy than to see Jason receive full restoration in every aspect of his life: to look into his eyes as he became a husband again, to carry and give birth to two sons he never thought he’d have, and to stand beside him as he received full ordination as a pastor from the Assemblies of God. Those were sacred moments, moments where God’s glory was revealed. It’s a powerful story, to be sure, one I dearly love to tell.
But it’s Jason’s story of God’s grace in his life. And while God created us to be helpmates to our husbands; He never meant for any of his people to have stand-in roles in the story He is telling the world. We ARE the spotlight shining on Jesus Christ.
For a long time the enemy had me convinced that I didn’t have a story of my own. Until I remembered a prayer I prayed when Jason and I had just begun dating. I was broken over the hurt Jason had experienced, and I was pouring my heart out to the Lord. “How could she treat him that way, God?” I railed. “What kind of woman treats such extravagant love with such contempt?”
And in His gentle way, the Holy Spirit held up a mirror to my heart….
“You did,” he whispered.
It is so easy to grow up in the church and believe that if you are good enough, if you faithfully attend services, if you go on enough missions trips, if you memorize enough Bible verses, that those things make you right before God. All this time, I had been presuming myself to be the Hosea in the story: the redeemer, showing unfailing love in the midst of aching betrayal. But I had it so wrong.
I’m not the savior; I’m the one who needs salvation.
I’m not Hosea; I am the prostitute.
Despite the lavish way God has loved me, time and again, I have turned my back on what He offers to seek out worthless idols instead. It’s the story of every human heart. It’s the war no one wants to believe we are engaged in. Every natural inclination I have goes against God’s laws. I seek my own good above the good of others. I am prideful. Sometimes I make idols out of my husband or my children. I lose my temper. I want my own way. I miss the mark. I am a sinner. I needed Jesus. I still need Jesus. And Jesus has saved me.
I know that doesn’t sound remarkable. My story is the story of someone who has never suffered through abuse, or infertility, or addiction, or abandonment, or infidelity, or terminal illness, or the countless other tragedies that confront Christians and non-Christians alike. But if I believe that my story of a so-called “good” life needed God’s grace any less than one with more dramatic obstacles to overcome, I have believed a lie.
The Bible is explicitly clear that any turning from God, any selfishness, any pride, any disobedience, separates me from Him every bit as much as things like theft and murder and adultery.
No one is righteous before God. Not even me, the good girl.
As I look back over my life, I see that all the good I’ve experienced, and all the bad I’ve been spared from has absolutely nothing to do with my level of devotion to God. I don’t know why he chose this story for me. But beautiful stories and painful stories are both useless unless they point back to Jesus. For many, a season of tragedy can serve to peel back a corner of the illusion that we are self-sufficient and in control, and reveal instead an all-powerful God who sits on the throne of heaven no matter what we face.
But the good things proclaim his glory, too….if our eyes are fixed on Jesus.
Whether God walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death or through the door of hope described in Hosea 2:15, he walks with me. Because of Jesus, I am never alone.
When my parents moved our family to Springfield and money was tight, I wasn’t alone. When I lived in Volos, eight time zones away from my family and church, I wasn’t alone. When Jason and I stepped out in faith to become pastors of church plant, we weren’t alone. And no matter what blessing or tragedy my future holds, I will not face that alone either.
That is the miracle of grace, that Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins would pave the way for the fullness of God to dwell in my human heart, so that in both triumph and tragedy, for better, or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, my heavenly groom will stand by my side.
And not just for as long as I live, but forever.