Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Reflection on Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love

Last summer, after I discovered Ruthie Hart's blog, I saw a few of her book recommendations and she so strongly encouraged people to read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  I respect Ruthie's opinion and during the days when Ryan and I only had one care, waited for him and trekked to Barnes and Noble.  That was also the day that I ran into a very elderly man who would not leave me alone, but that's another story.  Over the next few months, Redeeming Love collected dust on one of my numerous book shelves as it waited for me to pour through its pages.  I started it after one of my alerts and couldn't put it down.  I became enamored with the characters and I wanted to see Angel succeed and find the love of God.  After starting it, it only seemed fitting that I would share an Instagram photo and I received so many "likes" and comments.  I even got more book recommendations on what to read by Francine Rivers.  After reading Redeeming Love, I know that I will definitely be checking out more of her work. 

If it were a movie, don't you think Hayden would be a perfect Angel?  She's beautiful but sassy and I think it would be awesome to see her in this role.  Plus Henry Cavill is so handsome, a perfect Hosea!

As much as I like book reviews, I think I'm going to stay away from that and try to apply this one specifically to my life and why I like them versus why everyone should read it.  Hopefully this works, so bear with me.
Angel is a prostitute during the gold rush in California.  Originally from the East Coast, she was sold into prositution and her earlier life wasn't any kinder to her.  Growing up, she grew cold and bitter at life and stopped trusting people, especially men.  Michael Hosea is a farmer who conveniently is in the gold rush town to sell goods when he sees Angel for the first time.  He immediately feels a call from God that this woman should be his wife.  The story goes on to tell their trials and tribulations in the theme of Gomer and Hosea, a story from the Bible. 

Y'all, I loved this book! 

Most of the book focuses on Angel's character development.  I think Rivers could have gone further into this and at times I did feel like she went a little too briefly over some of Angel's past.  I think it would have helped the reader to understand why Angel's personality was so hardened.  Rivers' lack of detail kind of forced the reader to side with Michael Hosea but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I loved the character of Michael Hosea.  I would have loved to read this in high school, especially those times when you feel like you're never going to find a good guy to date.  I should have probably read this in college too, to be honest.  Michael Hosea represents all good men.  Men of their word who have honor and a quiet strength about them.  He had never-ending love and patience for Angel, regardless of how difficult she made life for him.  I also loved the new characters and families that were introduced later in the book.  It was as if you were growing with this couple in their love.

This book made me pause in reflection with my own marriage.  I wrote earlier in this post that I probably should have read this book in college, just because I was at a point where I was really frustrated with my personal relationships.  I was casually dating and I almost felt like I was dating just for the sake of dating.  The guys in college were smart, handsome, and career-driven.  I'm sure if I looked any of them up, they were probably successful in buckling down a job right away.  One of them was part of the NFL Draft and from what I understand, is at the very least, practicing with a professional team.  Despite how these guys looked on paper, I was rarely truly happy.  I've written about this before but there was definitely a point where I was almost certain that no guy that I met in college was going to follow me through the Air Force.  It was a sad thought and one that I just came to terms with at that time.  I decided that I should still date but these relationships quickly turned out to be fleeting and at surface-level I said that I just wanted it be casual, but deep down it hurt that I didn't think that I would be able to have more.  I remember spending nights incredibly frustrated, staring at texts, trying to decipher what each thing meant.  I would try not to put too much thought into each of these small details, but after awhile it was just exhausting. 

Ruth, the mom of one of my best-friends, said that we just need to be happy.  We wanted that quality relationship, but we were letting ourselves focus on things that weren't important.  She said that we needed to make ourselves happy first and then we'd soon find out that people are attracted to happy people.

So I prayed.  I often prayed while walking to the ROTC detachment on campus and I prayed on the long walks back to my sorority house.  I asked God to help me in my pursuit to be happy and I'll just do my best to put faith in the situation.  I didn't let go right away.  I was dating a really nice guy who right now is on his way to becoming a doctor.  I knew that the relationship wasn't going to go anywhere, but looking back part of me thinks that I was just really worried to be alone.  Maybe I was 50 shades of shallow in college, but regardless of what front you put up to the world with your organizations and leadership titles, you could still be lonely.  So somewhere in that flurry of figuring out personal relationships, Ryan, my future husband, walked back into my life.

I like to think of Ryan as a gift from God because I seriously was not expecting him at all.  He was literally in Afghanistan when he started talking to me and I was in Wisconsin.  All I knew was that he had me swooning.  He was 1). incredibly handsome 2). a Marine (ladies, a man in uniform, c'mon), and 3). we could have hours of conversation.  In reading Redeeming Love, whenever God spoke with Michael, I could relate to feelings of excitement and confusion.  I could also relate to Angel with feelings of distrust.  I wanted to fall in love with Ryan but I didn't want to end up looking like the college girl idiot who had fallen for another impossible relationship.  There was a distinct moment in which I was very upfront with him and basically laid it out that if he wanted to have a casual thing while he was on leave that was fine.  I went further and said that there was no need for him to basically tell me all of these sweet things, if that was the case. I think I hurt his feelings.  I was honestly worried that his post-deployment leave meant that he was going to be hooking up with girls from back home until he had to head back to his base.  Fortunately that wasn't the case.  For me that verbal declaration gave me some semblance of power in the relationship knowing that I could say that I didn't care that it was casual, as long as we both understood that.  It was actually really hard for me to say that, especially to Ryan because I cared so much for him.  It basically helped create a boundary to hopefully help prevent any hurt. 

I didn't want it to be casual, I loved him and I knew he was in my life for a reason. 

There was a hiccup in our dating where after we decided that despite long distance we were going to make it work, I could tell he was distancing himself from me.  That was hard to take because I was certain that we were falling apart and that would have only reinforced every negative bias I had for relationships.  I was sitting on my bed and received a phone call from him saying that he thought that we maybe should go back to what we were before we made it official.  I was trying to keep my composure but I was really torn up over that.  I finally had this beautiful relationship and then the other half of the equation wanted it be casual.  I was heartbroken.  I remember sobbing to my sorority sister, Lindsey and she was such a calming light in that really dark time for me.  What you've got to understand is that by that point in time I thought I finally had this relationship that I deserved.  I had this beautiful man who loved me and wasn't out to use me and then BAM there it all went.  I was devastated and my self-worth was probably at an all time low.  I remember Ryan texting me and I could barely text him back.  I didn't want to.  Memories of miserable college-relationships, fueled with frat dance parties and beer came to mind.  

More praying happened and I basically felt like God (and Lindsey) were telling me that if I let it go and if he was the good man that I knew he was, he'd come back to me. 

Within the next couple of days, Ryan apologized and said he made a terrible mistake and that we should be in a relationship together.  He had been hurt in prior relationships before and he didn't want to see ours fall apart due to the distance.  Of course, me being headstrong and loyal, had no idea where he was coming from with that.  He had gone to a party with his Marine friends and realized that all he wanted was to be with me, not surrounded by these people or dancing with any other girl.

A few weeks later he asked me what I thought about marrying him.
I totally thought he was kidding but that's a story that I'm sure I've told many times here.

Reading Redeeming Love reminded me that sometimes you just have to let faith and hope do work.  Not everything can be planned and managed, but you grow in faith and love.  This story also taught me what it means to be a more earnest partner and spouse. 

I recommend this book, whether you're married or not.  I speaks volumes on patience, love, and compassion.  I also loved the characters in the book.

Have you read Redeeming Love or any of Francine Rivers' other works?  What did you think?

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  1. I love love love this book! I first read it several years ago and loved it so much that I have read it a few times since then. Re-reads are something i rarely do, so that says something about how much I enjoyed this book. My other favorite Francine Rivers books are The Scarlet Thread and The Last Sin Eater. Both a really great books, but I'm sure you have already heard of them if you have been getting other Francine Rivers suggestions. :)

    1. Love the book recommendations and I was surprised that so many ladies are familiar with this book. It makes me so happy to see that! I'll definitely have to check out your recommendations. I love feel good stories :)

  2. I am IN LOVE with this book. It's defiantly on my top 3 list. This books means soooo much to me.

  3. I teared up reading this. I've read many of her books but enjoyed reading about your heart just as much.

    Thank you for sharing Kim!

  4. I LOVED Redeeming Love! My SIL recommended it to me, and I couldn't put it down!