Teaching my Old Testament students from Hosea this week, I was confronted again with what His people's sin and idolatry look like to God. We look like a prostitute to Him. Hosea's marriage to Gomer the harlot is not a pretty picture. It's like the one I see out my study window.
In the past I have enjoyed teasing my fellow pastor here, Jason, about the contrasting views out of our study windows. His window looks out "like a business executive over the lovely skyline of beautiful downtown Kokomo" (my hyperbolic description), while my study looks out "over an alley with trashcans" (my perfectly accurate description). Jason and his wife, who works as our secretary, switched offices a while back, so I cannot tease him about it anymore. However, on the phone a few weeks ago a pastor friend let out a yell while talking to me. A curious deer had come up to his floor-to-ceiling window in his study and startled him. After teasing him about being afraid of Bambi, I looked forlornly out my window again and wished I could see a deer. For the gritty realism out my window that I have commented on before continues, and even came inside recently. For the prostitute I see nearly every day looking out my study window stopped by a few days ago.
As I look across my desk out my window, about twenty yards away on the other side of the lawn, right next to the alley with its trashcans, sits a small gray building. Formerly a garage, I believe, it has been converted into an apartment by the landlord of the large house near it which also has renters. A black lady in her fifties lives in it with a white man about her age. I'll call her Sheila. Sheila is a prostitute. How do I know? Besides being kinda obvious when she drives away with different men, she came to church a few years ago and told us.
We were excited when Sheila came a few times two summers ago. She was all dressed up, excited about being there, asked questions in class enthusiastically, said "Amen" sometimes when I preached (I liked that), and spoke often about Jesus. However, as we talked further with her, she told us the man she lived with (she called him "her old man") was her pimp. When we discussed leaving this lifestyle, she laughed and said she could not. One day she just left and would not come back. I had not heard much from her lately. Oh, occasionally we talk out in the neighborhood. And last summer I had to close my window a few times when she sat out in her lawn in the summertime, singing and laughing too loudly while drinking OJ and vodka with her friends. Yet mostly I just see her sad lifestyle and pray quietly for the Lord to save her.
A few days ago I heard someone in the building. I called out a greeting, and Sheila came down the hallway. She told me she wanted money to help her go out of town for "a disability hearing." ( My recent experience has shown this reason has replaced "I need money to go visit my sick aunt in the hospital" on the street as a way for asking for a handout. If given, this money is turned into drugs and alcohol. ) When I asked her what her disability was, she pointed to her head and said "mental." As I talked with her, I noticed how much more aged she had become, how broken she looked. I told Sheila that I did not think her problem was mental. I told her it was her lifestyle. Her response? "I can't argue with that, Pastor." I pressed on, and told her that she was not obeying the gospel of Jesus with her actions (at this point, I noticed she was wearing a Christian T-shirt). "You got me there, Preacher." Why don't you come to church Sunday and talk more with the deacons and me? "Okay, I'll see you then," she said as she left.
She didn't come. Even as I write, she's still just outside my window.
Pray for Sheila to yearn for the freedom of Christ. But pray for you and pray for me also. How ugly we look to God when we leave the beauty of our Savior for one more trick with the world. How old we appear when we spurn gospel newness for gross habits. As you pray, be sure to listen to Christ our husband saying, "My heart is turned over within Me, all my compassions are kindled" (Hosea 11:8).