July 28, 2013
Written by Daniel Hazard

Donna Schaper

"Then I will restore back her vineyards." - Hosea 2:15

The prophet Hosea is downright romantic in this passage, promising not only that the broken marriage will be healed but that the vineyards will be restored.

My friend says he plays penultimate Frisbee, not ultimate Frisbee. Many of us play marriage penultimately, and that's why the vineyards are not yet restored.

In the marriage vow, we say no to consumerism in our romantic lives.  Of course, there is somebody better for you or who has less expensive teeth.  There always will be.  When you find the next one, there will also be a next one.  One day you will wake up and realize that "nobody ever really loved me the way I wanted to be loved."  If you insert conditions into the covenant, so will your partner.  If you take conditions out of the covenant, so might your partner.  (I said might, not will.).  To get the love we want, we need to give it. Unconditional restores the fertility of the vineyard.  Conditional yields the grapes of wrath.

I have been married through 5 dead dogs, to the same man, for 32 years.  He knows how feeble I am.  He knows my anger and its lack of a shut-off valve.  He knows my varicose veins.  He could, if he tried, advise less when we play tennis, or laugh more. We could get my veins fixed and his tennis chatter ceased and probably not love each other that much more.

Over the years, the conditions have disappeared.  As they did, the vineyards got that ancient twine you see in winter, where you don't know which vine is which, so happy are they to be clung and flung and twined together.


God of vineyard's constant restoration, give us one more day to take one more step towards understanding "for better for worse," unconditionally.  Amen.

About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Grace at Table: Small Spiritual Solutions to Large Material Problems.

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