HOtel RoOms

Hotel room
Originally uploaded by wili_hybrid.
Hotel rooms are lonely places. Often they are a place of secret rendezvous’ between a married man and a woman who is not. Other times they are solitary confinement units for the weary traveler, isolated from the rest of a community in a town he or she doesn’t belong, like some Kurt Vonnegut character. Many a man has met his demise in a hotel room, as with many a woman. Many times, hotel rooms are “neutral” ground for individuals or couples, to “start all over.” Other times, they are the place where individuals or couples come to an end.

So it isn’t too surprising to find myself chewing over something as I sit in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. The “something” is this conversation between a husband and God. God says to this husband whose wife is a prostitute, “Start all over: love your wife, again; even though she loves another and continues to whore herself out; in the same way, I love My People, although they turn to other gods and whore themselves out.” So this guy does it and says to his wife, “You must live with me and not commit adultery, you must not have sex with another man, and I will wait for you, I will not have sex with you for a time.” Why? Why love a woman who betrays him time and again, sleeping with the highest bidder? Why would God give such an uncomfortably intimate picture of how he sees things going between him and the ones he loves? It borders the lines of cruel to ask this of any man. It borders the lines of insanity for him to go through with it. So then, what’s that say about God?

When uncertainty becomes too prevalent, when the possibility of something too good to be true requires an unyielding fidelity, when intimacy means being so close that our breathes’ are indistinguishable, it is then that I unwittingly create barriers to keep my distance from God. It might just be the current theme of my life, but I see time and again God pulling people out of the false securities, the lesser glories into the thing he wanted/wants most directly.

He says of Israel, “they are going to live a long time stripped of security and protection, without religion and comfort, godless and prayerless.” And they do…and many in Israel would say it continues to this day. He takes from them not just their familiar surroundings but also their “religion.” Which leads me to wonder, was their religion a thing they created to keep themselves from the direct contact God wanted? If so, then no wonder we have so many today that are religious but lack any sense of reality, of authentic love.

He takes their gods. The little things they substitute for the Big one. Contextually, it seems that giving themselves to these little gods is akin to having sex with whoever walks by. The little gods that I didn’t know I gave myself to are false senses of security via money, career, reputation. If I pay my dues, give money or career a priority over anything else, if I let those things have the center stage in my life then maybe, just maybe I will gain the “good life.” These are the little gods and “religions” I made for myself. (And no wonder my prayers seem to fall on silent ears, since they are offered to lifeless entities.)

Myself. Often, you hear it among religious types that “sin” is making “self” the god we worship. Do things for my “self.” Make decisions for my “self.” There might be narcissistic ways I carry on my day, but worshipping my “self” means that I value it enough to be worthy of worship… and that value hasn’t been something I’ve ever found in excess. Granted, that is also a likely reason for “self” worship as it is a choice for something less. The same misplaced sense of worth is probably what provokes this husband’s wife God is talking about to whore herself out in the first place; not unlike the ways I whore my “self” out in relationships, or occupations, or material things, i.e. an ipod here, a new set of skis there, better clothes, etc.

So, here I am in this hotel room in New Mexico and I feel it’s as if God chases down his beloved – me, you – and puts her in a place of detox from all the secondary ways of living to have her back as he created her. The detox had started long before I checked into my room, but the reality set in when I was all alone with no clue as to where next in life I was heading.

Hotel rooms can be lonely places. They also can be a place where enough of the normalcy of life has been stripped away, where silence is deafening and I must finally listen to the story being told. God says that the goal of this detox for his people is that they will be “ready for the end of the story of his love.” It takes being stripped bare to be reminded of the story…