I have been purposefully carving out a portion of my day to read in my Bible and not just do a devotional or listen to a cool inspirational podcast as I would normally tend to do. There is not one thing wrong with my normal approach to getting a little bit of God time into my day in addition to the running prayer chain He and I have going. But, taking the time to get out my Bible with a pen in hand to really study it takes more time because I am usually carried off on a mission to discover more about the passages I’m reading. Since I have been walloped aside the head by God recently to let go of trying to control my world and allow Him to be my pilot once again (see the post The Opposite of Fear) I feel this is a prudent first step. Besides, when I polled all you lovely people about how you deepen your faith a good many of you said you turned to your Bible. Good advice.
I chose to begin studying the women of the Bible because, well, I am a woman and I relate to stories of women, naturally. To be honest, it was hard to begin. It was like I was afraid of what I would find out about myself that I would rather not acknowledge. I do not always believe in the devil’s power to insinuate himself into my life. I mean I find that I go for long periods seemingly forgetting that’s a real thing. Which is totally proof that this happens. But this fear of just picking up my Bible and reading??? It was c-r-a-z-y. I am an English teacher turned librarian turned tech coach. I have 3 degrees. Learning is what I do – I am NEVER afraid to read. So, being the rebellious girl I am I READ to spite this fear.
I chose the “Book of Ruth” because it had been on my mind. Though I have no particular reason to associate this with other than the Holy Spirit guiding me with the still and quiet nudges. Turns out, it was, of course, the perfect place to dive in because 1) it’s not too daunting – only 4 tiny chapters 2) it’s a story of friendship more than anything else 3) it demonstrates God’s promise with everyday life.
I didn’t like what I found.
Turns out, Naomi and I have a lot in common. I would love to insert a cuss word here but I feel that’s inappropriate.
Let me explain.
The story begins with Naomi losing her husband. Then, her sons get married. Ten years later both of her sons die. (Ruth 1:1-5) And there’s a famine. (Ruth 1:6) And she is a woman in a culture that does not make being a single woman of age an easy person to survive being. She became BITTER. I would go so far as to say she was angry with God and felt he had abandoned her, punished her, or outright turned his back on her. So she sorta did the same. Or she threw a temper tantrum, anyway. She called Him out. She even requested she be called a different name so that her very name (Mara – Hebrew for “bitter”) expressed her bitterness with God. (Ruth 1:20)
- “For it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Ruth 1:13 NKJV
- “But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:20-22 NKJV
Now, I’m too Southern for that. My bitterness was kept beneath the surface – just behind my smile and hidden inside a little corner of my laughter. But I felt this way. I felt abandoned by God when my marriage and life became plagued with my ex-husband’s alcoholism. I folded my arms and stomped my feet and cried “why me????” I was angry. I just didn’t go so far as to change my name to Bitter Bonnie.
THEN, now this one struck me, THEN Naomi said she was too old to marry again. (Ruth 1:12) Now woman. Please. I understand that in her context, in her culture, she did not see herself as any kind of bargaining chip to use to enter a marriage that might save her from the plight of being a widow with no sons and no parents to go home to. But, when I read this I immediately questioned whether or not as a divorced woman with grown kids I am possibly too old to marry again. Let me make this clear, I am not. This one sentence in this one chapter struck this conviction in me. Until recently it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I know I am quite capable of thriving on my own. I do not NEED anyone. But, God has reminded me of His promise and His love for me. He has shown me what a true and soulful love could be. He has pushed me into wanting this again, to allow myself the vulnerabilty to accept it when (not if) God places me on such a path. I want God’s promise of a partner, a man made by Him specifically for me to spend the last of all of my days with. But, Naomi reminded me that bitterness can keep me from seeing the ways in which God wants me to go just like control can. It’s like a veil pulled between God and I and it creates static, impairing my ability to understand – or my ability to accept that I am not meant to fully understand. Naomi was in no position to dream of marrying for love. But, I am.
But Naomi’s story continues. Like any good woman of God, she took action and picked up and moved herself to a place where she had relatives and there was no famine. She did not sit and mope and wait for God to rescue her. She took action so God could rescue her. And she didn’t even have the Holy Spirit to nudge her along. Ahh. In her bitterness and her anger she kept moving forward. She was a good woman who suffered tragedies and she was angry and she chose to live and continue to believe in her God anyway. She was bitter, but she didn’t lose faith, and she didn’t stop being a woman of God.
God rewarded this moving forward with Ruth, Naomi’s daughter in law, who insisted she stay with her. Naomi tried to get her to choose to go back to her own family, but Ruth refused to abandon Naomi. She pledged to remain with her all of her days. I wonder, with as bitter as Naomi was, how long it took her to see this as the blessing it was? Her life took a turn for the fabulous because of the dedication of just this one friend.
As you may remember from my recent post about faith (referenced above) I am really trying to define the woman I am, want to become, and the one God has called me to be. Thanks to Naomi, I know I do not want to be bitter, I do want to be stagnant, I want to radiate my HOPE and FAITH in God and continue to move forward, always. Naomi didn’t quit – she picked up and moved and found the opportunities God had provided for her and Ruth to secure a better life. He is working on my life right now, just out of sight where I cannot see what in the world He is doing. But I have faith He is continuously laying foundations for me.
More on the “Book of Ruth” soon 😃