SOS Ruth

With the loss of my husband, it strikes me how much my life has been altered.  That ending wasn’t part of my storybook plan.  It was so unexpected and all of the things I imagined were cut off in an instant.   All of life’s plans only made sense in the context of this other person to share them with.  When a spouse is removed from the picture, everything else seems empty.

The dream I had of family and children and children’s children died with my husband.  I didn’t know what life had for me now.  I had no home of my own. The ties to my old life in my father’s house had been cut and I felt like I was adrift in a sea of emotion and endless grief.

And even worse, I had come to know and love the God of Israel.  The stories of the great men of faith and their adventures from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Joseph were ones that thrilled me and resonated in my heart of hearts.  I felt like I knew them and I couldn’t get away from the realization that the gods of my fathers were false and small and poor imitations of the real God in heaven.  I couldn’t go back to my father’s house.  There was no place for me there now.

Years passed. When Naomi told me she was going back to Bethlehem, I had no choice but to go with her.  That moment crystallized what I already knew.  Naomi was my home now.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the God of Ruth as well.

So off we went, she back to a place she had left so many years ago, and I, a stranger in a strange land, yearning for a love that I would never get to know.

We arrived in Bethlehem and settled in, eventually connecting with the poor, seeking benevolence from the teams organizing the harvest of barley.  The overseer gave us our instructions and told us what we would be allowed to glean, warning us to stay out of the way of the main operation.  We went out and I was in the corner of the field, picking up the leftovers and scraps from the harvesting process.

It felt like a picture of my life.  My entire existence was a desperate grasping at the edges of our field, hopelessly struggling to get by.  Not planning or living anymore, just existing, moment to moment, day to day.

Then I saw him.

The most handsome man I had ever seen.

And the way his men responded to him!  Such strength, such joy and though he was older he seemed full of vitality and youthful energy.  If I could sculpt, I’d create a sculpture that would capture the essence of what I saw in him:  loving power in action, masculinity moving to accomplish his goal, a focused and purposive visage in full stride surrounded by a sense of God’s favor and presence.

I snapped myself out of the daydream quickly, as embarrassed as if people could somehow see what I was thinking.  I needed to focus as Naomi was counting on me.  I worked and gleaned, but truly I did little else that morning beyond stealing glances at that man.

The more I thought about it, the more depressed I became.  I was a foreigner.  I was poor.  I was staying with Naomi and we were destitute.  I was widowed.  I wasn’t as young as I used to be and the worst thing of all…

I couldn’t have children.

He seemed to go out of his way to be kind and generous to all of us.   I found myself at his table and he offered me food, telling me to stay with his fields and his crew through the harvest.  He was probably feeling sorry for the poor widowed lady and I tried to draw as little attention to myself as possible.

We fell back into the rhythm of working, and the coordination of the harvest team was impressive.  Everyone had their job and everyone knew their place.  It was full of life and the man who owned the field had created a place where people could belong.  At some point the workers started to sing, their steady rhythm of the scythe cutting a background to their voices.  Then one voice rose above the rest and I was somehow not surprised that it was his.

A deep baritone rang out over the fields as the men sang in the afternoon sun.

At the end of the day I had as much grain as I could carry.  Naomi would be pleased; we would be ok for a few weeks at least with what I had been able to gather today.

I’ll never forget the look on her face when she saw what I had gathered.  She immediately began aggressively interrogating me about where I had been, whose field had I found, who had taken notice of me.  And she clapped her hands in joy at the mention of Boaz’s name.

Over the next few days something amazing happened.  My heart, dead and broken in my chest, sprang to life again.  My dreams of family and love and a life beyond my imagining moved back into the world of the possible.

At Naomi’s instruction, I went at night to the threshing floor and lay down at the feet of my redeemer.  When he awoke, he spoke gently and I fell in love with him again.

Could it be that God could bring me back to this place?  Was this restoration of everything somehow not beyond His power?  This dream that I had given up on… was being given back to me.  I don’t understand the workings of heaven.   I don’t understand the path that brought me here, or the years of sorrow we’ve endured.

But now I see this chance of a life with the man before me.  A dream revived beyond anything I could have imagined.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  (The Account of Ruth, 4)

Devotional Thought for the Day

Ruth’s story could easily describe the life of a church planter. Loss, uncertainty, relocation to a foreign place, physically working to exhaustion and being an outsider, not the things dreams are usually made of.  Just as Ruth had no rights in Israel until she placed herself at the feet of Boaz, we have no rights until we fall at the feet of Jesus.  When our dream seems lost or out of reach, dependency on our Redeemer and His divine providence are key. Trust in the one Who can replace our thwarted dreams with a life beyond our imagination.

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