Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear,This is a love story. Re-reading this scripture passage took me back to the days when I was "a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, A wife married in youth and then cast off."
Break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor,
For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife
than the children of her who has a husband,
says the LORD.
Enlarge the space for your tent,
spread out your tent cloths unsparingly;
lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.
For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left;
your descendants shall dispossess the nations
and shall people the desolate cities.
Fear not, you shall not be put to shame;
you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced.
The shame of your youth you shall forget,
the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
For he who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the LORD of hosts;
Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
A wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
So I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
In case you didn't know, I was married when I was young. Twice. Both times, one could say that I was "cast off," though I was the one who left the first marriage. I left because I was "cast off" within the marriage, and my former husband refused to participate in any kind of therapy or counseling (he said to me, "I'm happy; if you're unhappy, you go get help"). I did get help, and knew that I wasn't going to be able to live fully, or have children, in that marriage.
In the second marriage, the husband did the leaving, and though it had been turbulent, I was bereft. All I wanted seemed to be beyond my reach. I did not want a career; I wanted a family. But I was forced to go out and find a career, because you can't just "order" love like take-out food; it has to find you. So I got busy, and admitted to God that I could see I didn't "get" this whole love & marriage business. I read the passage above from Isaiah, and thought, "Ok, I am going to take You at Your word; You are my husband. Any man who is going to be my husband is going to have to come through You, have Your approval, and be like You."
If you read the passage thoughtfully, you can see that it is describing Israel, but it was also describing me in 1989. And I want you to know that He has been a faithful Husband. He is true to His word, and He loves deeply and profoundly. He was never angry with me; He never left me. I "enlarged the space for my tent," and looked for ways to interact with children, in case I never had any of my own. He filled my life with children (teaching Sunday School and getting involved with DECA), helped me grow in my work, and then He led me to a husband with whom to share profound love and happiness, life and children.
Our relationship survived through hard places and times, but He did not forsake me. Being swindled, changing churches (religions, too), facing the sexual abuse that occurred in my childhood, the difficulties of any human life - He was there. Our relationship deepened through Bible study, lectionary, spiritual direction, reading, baptism, and service; it developed and grew the most after I became a mother, through life itself, and it is still the anchor of my life. Through Katie's illness and death, and after, everything that is written in this passage in Isaiah 54 was proved to be true, and I am thankful to Him. He is a wonderful Husband, and the one He gave me is, too. Not that our life together is "perfect," or our family is "perfect," but He is faithful to His promises.
"Divine love is perfect peace and joy, it is a freedom from all disquiet, it is all content and happiness; and makes everything to rejoice in itself. Love is the Christ of God; wherever it comes, it comes as the blessing and happiness of every natural life, a redeemer from all evil, a fulfiller of all righteousness, and a peace of God, which passeth all understanding." - William Law