I have a favorite book. It's rated PG-13.
Or rather it would be if it were a movie. There's a warning in the front. A letter to the reader explaining that the subject matter may be offensive to some. A caution for parents. Not appropriate, even for some older teens.
I don't own this book. I have owned it. Several times. But I always end up giving it away. The first copy I read was borrowed. Then for years I would buy the book, only to give it away to the next someone on my gift list. Our church librarian purchased the book on my recommendation last month, and I was the first to check it out. Once again I've read a borrowed copy. When I finished this time, I insisted Michael read it too. And despite the beautiful, red 1850s style dress flowing across the cover, he agreed. At the end, he too, was awed.
There are currently 517 reviews of my favorite book on Amazon. 485 of them are 5-stars. 13 are 4-stars. Quite a favorable rating.
Redeeming Love retells the Old Testament story of Hosea and Gomer in an 1850's setting. It also parallels the reality of our own encounter, and subsequent relationship, with God. At times the story is beautiful and soaked with an unexplainable love, while at other times it is ugly and difficult to read. Seeing the parallel to the truth of our own sinful selves brings a spirit of repentance, followed by one of gratitude for the mercy and grace that is freely given to us despite our weaknesses.
This is the story of a woman who was wronged from very early in life. She learned to cope and survive in a way that turned love into a terrible four letter word. Yet God had a plan of redemption. A plan to bring her into a life of abundance. A plan to bring her joy.
It is also the story of a man who was obedient all his life. A man who prayed and sought God's direction. His struggles with the conflict between obedience and understanding are so very real. How can this troubled, painful road possibly lead to anything good, much less wonderful and satisfying? But it does. It really does.
Redeeming Love. By Francine Rivers. My favorite book. Perhaps forever.