Our women’s study group began a discussion of the book of Ruth Sunday morning. Ruth has become one of my favorite books of the Old Testament, primarily because it is focused around the strengths and struggles of two women through their journey of grief, survival and restoration. It packs some great lessons in its four short chapters. And it doesn’t hurt that, following not far behind books like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – it’s a nice, easy read!
I’m by no means a Bible expert, but to me, in its simplest form, Ruth is a story of compassion, loyalty and love. In a more complex way it deals with the differences of ethnicity and faith, as well as Jewish law and how the different genders were viewed at that time. It is the story of Naomi and Ruth (her daughter-in-law), who through loss, major life challenges and most importantly the dedication and strength of Ruth – regain their family and faith.
I’ve read this book several times in the past few years. Each time, I think about Ruth and what things must have been like for her. To lose her husband at such a young age and then to choose to leave her country, her family, the religion she was raised with – in essence, her support structure, her comfort and her safety! She left it all to commit to a women who she was no longer required to commit to; to move to a land where she had to have known she would not easily be welcomed or accepted; all the while having no idea where they would live or how they would be taken care of. Those are very difficult situations to face for anyone! Yet Ruth pushed past her uncertainty and made a commitment to Naomi and to God!
I often pray to be more like Ruth!
Ruth embodies those traits I wish came to me more naturally – unbridled compassion, living beyond fear and the unknown, being there for others with no thought for myself and surrendering everything to God! She took a major chance in picking up and leaving everything she knew, for a life where she had no way of knowing how it would turn out. And yet she did it with full-blown commitment and love!
However, this time around I found myself actually relating more with Naomi! Naomi was a good women, but she was human! She was away from her homeland, a widower who had lost both of her sons, with no real prospects for more children or even another husband. She felt sorry for herself, had become bitter and for a while even blamed God for her circumstances. She was definitely in a very low place in her life in the first half of this story. Yet we see that through the love, loyalty and compassion of Ruth, she was able to restore her family’s bloodline, regain her faith, her happiness and her strength.
In a way, I get what Naomi was going through. The feelings of loss, the sadness of not being closer to family, the fear of uncertainty, the bitterness and the questioning – why this had all happened. I can relate to her, her story, her feelings. I can relate because I felt all of those things, some intensely.
And yet God!
God finds ways to pull us back from that place, if we trust in Him. Naomi had Ruth, and a support group of friends and family in her homeland, who helped her regain her life. For me, it was also some very special people that God put into my life who, in their own ways, helped me walk through that darkness and back onto a path of light and peace.
I often find that certain scripture can speak to me in different ways, and from different angles, depending on what might be going on in my life at the time. A verse may not seem important at one time, and then may become a life changing verse at another. It’s why I love to read and study scripture because it is God’s way of sharing His word and truth with us. Of letting us know that everything we truly need is there in Him – we just have to be willing to ask, to breathe it in and to live it out!
I will probably read the story of Ruth and Naomi many more times over my life. I think I will always aspire to me more like Ruth! And yet today, I’m feeling comforted by my draw to Naomi!
“But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.” Ruth 1:16-17
Now that’s love!