Redeeming Love with Francine Rivers

Best-selling author Francine Rivers wrote an allegory of the book of Hosea, “Redeeming Love” in 1991. Recently, it was made into a movie that is now showing in theaters across America. She shares what led her to write the book and why it holds deep personal meaning for her.

Francine was twenty one years old when she married her husband who was twenty-two. They had known each other since fifth grade and were good friends but marriage was difficult for them. As young marrieds, they moved to California to start a new business. Francine was invited to church by an eight year old boy from next door. She started attending that non-denominational church and begin learning about who God was from the Word. They taught scripture, verse by verse, including the historical context and the way it applies today. Rick, her husband, wouldn’t attend so instead the church started a bible study in their home. Rick hit it off with the pastor of the church and not long after he and Francine were baptized together.

Before that, Francine had a career writing steamy romance novels but when she became a Christian, she said she couldn’t write anymore, until she came to the book of Hosea. “It broke me wide open” she said, “I could really identify with that.” She looked at Hosea from the standpoint sinners with no knowledge of God, realizing we all go through a phase where we don’t want anyone to tell us what to do. 
“We want to be the master of our own soul”, says Francine. “Then, when you begin to get to know God and realize He wants every part of you, your past, everything there is, it’s scary.” But when you surrender, you began to look outside yourself and connect with other people. When you finally surrender fully, you find joy. Francine said that the story of Hosea showed her what it looks like for a person to come to Christ and what that means.

Francine thinks her book resonates with people because we are all looking for the kind of unconditional, passionate, undying love that Michael shows Angel in the book. She has found that people identify with the characters in various ways. Some women feel like they are Michael. Other readers identify with Paul or Angel. It resonates because we are all messy. None of us go throughout life without feeling broken in some way.

The book also connects with people because we so often define ourselves through the way the world sees us instead of how God sees us. “But”, Francine says, “we are precious in his sight. We are created for a purpose, and He has a plan for us.” She has things in her past that she regrets deeply, like an abortion in her , but God can take the worse things we have done and use them for His purpose. We are created in God’s image, and He build into us a need for relationship with Him. We will search in every other place there is until we find its Him. Our sin nature never wants us to find connection to God. We want to be our own God, but we are never going to find joy in that.
All of us have something we are ashamed of or try to hide. As Christians, we try to suppress those things but that is exactly what people need to hear so they can be set free from their own guilt. Jesus used story to share God’s love in powerful ways. The story of Hosea impacted Francine like that and she hopes the movie will open up conversations in a way other things can’t. She hopes people will see the truth of God’s love in the characters and plot. Stories like the love between Michael and Angel can help people ask the one major decision we all have in life, and that is the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Francine is hoping the story in Redeeming Love will point people to God and His love for them.

Kimberly Mitchell, Solo Parent Society cohost, read Redeeming Love as a mom with an eight month old baby, feeling trapped in an awful marriage. She remembers sitting in the bathroom, reading the book, and sobbing. She wanted the redemption and love she ready about in that story. She was a preacher’s kid but it wasn’t until eight years later that she recognized God’s deep love for her after divorce and as a single mom. A friend sent Kim verses from Hosea that hit her in a profound way. Hosea 2:14-15 says,  “And now here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to start all over again. I’m going to take her back out to the wilderness where we had our first date and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn heartbreak valley into acres of hope. She will respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. And at that time - and this is God’s message still - she will  call me husband.” Kim carried those verses through eight years of being a single mom. The redemption and love story of Hosea echoed God’s love for her. “Sometimes we think that’s a fairy tale and that’s for someone else”, shares Kim, “but that kind of love really does exist and it’s for everybody”.

God created us to be loved by Him as His children. That’s the story of Redeeming Love. When that resonates with someone, Francine says she knows its God’s story reaching someone. It’s God calling someone to Him and saying, “I love you. You’re precious. You belong to me. Turn yourself over to me completely and watch the miracle I can perform in your life.”

Often in our brokenness, we focus on another person to find love or acceptance, but it’s God we need. It’s Him we need as our first Husband. He’s the one who can love us perfectly and who we need to turn to. Francine says, “We just don’t have any concept for how passionately God loves us and how much He wants us to belong to Him. We all struggle and have doubts. We have a problem and call a friend. We don’t immediately turn to God for help or look in Scripture for the answers.” When we face uncertainty, after going through unexpected upheaval like divorce, we end up wanting to control. Francine says our sin nature pushes us to be our own God, to make our own decisions and call the shots. “And when we do, what a mess we make!”.

Since writing Redeeming Love, Francine has continued to discover that God’s love remains constant in through the ups and downs of life. And when things are uncertain, she turns to prayer, to rely on God for help and to listen to Him. “We need to pause and be still and listen to what He’s saying”, says Francine.

Francine has also learned a lot about sex trafficking as a result of writing the book. She didn’t realize when she wrote it how much it would mean to ministries that were helping those coming out of it.  Francine shares she always felt the book was part of her first fruits, to be given to God, so some of her profits have always gone to charity.  She has felt similarly with the movie. Some of the proceeds will go to Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation, founded by Holly Caruso, which distributes grants to organizations that help survivors of sex trafficking to get back on their feet. “That’s been an unexpected blessing and miracle” coming from the book and movie.

Francine wrote the production script for the movie to keep it true to the book and close to the original story. “All the major scenes impacting people from the reading of the book are in the movie”, says Francine. She shares the book is more explicit than the movie but when you see things visually, they can be even more steamy, so they had to be careful. “But”, she adds, “[those scenes] between married people, it’s about married love and the passion of God, and sex is a gift from God.” She wanted the movie’s main theme to be about God and for everything to be glorifying and honoring to Him, but she said, “Expect to see a little bit from the Song of Solomon in there.”

The script’s main purpose was to portray the communication of God’s love to the characters and to show the audience His love. Francine hopes people will walk out of the movie knowing there is Love out there, “that God is real, and that He loves them, and that they will want to dive in” and get to know Him. She hopes that Christians will bring unsaved friends and use it as a tool to talk to them about faith. That message is what we all need – the story of God’s redeeming love, constant and faithful even when we are not.

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