Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The TRUTH about Ruth....

The biblical story of Ruth and Naomi challenges me for a variety of reasons. Many people would assume that they could base my frustration on this life altering relationship between mother and daughter in-law, but it doesn't stop there. I am regularly challenged by the many revelations about her character and the lessons she teaches to women through her story.

A few months ago, a friend and I started reading about various women in the Bible. It was a time for fellowship, reflection on biblical teachings and lots of laughter about our own lives. Suffice it to say, we were both challenged to relate to anyone who followed their mother in law into an unknown land. On some days I think I'm a pretty good catch, but in this area, my husband did not hit the jackpot. If I were to be widowed, well, his mother wouldn't call me "blessed and highly favored" - more than likely I'd be everything but. The reality of my experience only accents how exceptional both of these women are.

Fast forward to the month of June, and now my minister wants to cover the topic of Ruth. I'm thinking to myself, I'm no slacker in this area - I know about her. He has managed to create even more depth and understanding , and I am now clear that what I learned in self study didn't even scratch the surface. Forget how these women were related, this is the story of a friendship that many can only dream about. (Others may share in the real life nightmares of the scenario and friendship too....)

Here's the short version - a man marries, has two sons, they marry, all the men die. If that isn't painful enough, this is a time of famine, and both women have left their culture to marry sons who worship a God they are not familiar with. Naomi (MIL) has such tremendous faith and is so dedicated to her God, the women decide to follow her, even though it seems as if she has nothing. As a wise woman, Naomi offers the young women one last chance to leave, and Orpah does. Ruth sticks with her. (A different tune for I'm gonna stickwithu, hmmm.)

So, here is the challenge. As a woman of faith, how many of us have such a strong relationship with God that we are attracting unlikely women who want to follow our path? When is the last time someone wanted to follow you because your convictions were so strong they saw a better path and a better life ahead. Are you able to ignore your circumstances as they exist right now, because you are secure in what the future will hold. Ruth was no average woman. Neither was Naomi for that matter. I remain in awe of what they had to go through.

From time to time I blog about adult women friendship and the need to mentor. Naomi established herself as the mentorship example when she discreetly taught Ruth how to attract Boaz, without regard for herself and with all the dignity of a mature woman who has lived several seasons of life. And all of this comes about today because I was thinking about the women in my life, and who could I follow from famine to feast - without any idea about the travels and the journey. (How's that for light reflection!)

Ask yourself who is in your life that serves as that type of example for you. Are there any of those women, or are you a "Naomi" leading others because your faith and convictions are so strong.

Here's how my story goes....

I know that there are women who I could follow. I pray that I am, or that I am becoming, someone that many women would follow.

1. I have people in my life who are dedicated to excellence on so many levels, but only a few who would put their needs secondary to mine. Naomi was first and foremost loyal and committed to the future of someone else. In many ways Ruth demonstrates this too. The prospects of Ruth's future were brighter because of her youth - but she was not distracted from the real pursuits of life. How's that for a lesson to teach our daughters, heck, ourselves.

2. Ruth actions were mirrored by her words. She was not only decisive, she spent little time telling the world what she had done to help her mother in law. Can I get a witness for how many times you were happy to receive help, but you didn't want a national broadcast that you needed it. I am thankful for the extension of support services in my life, that don't require accolades or recognition - they just are. Today I wondered, how many people in my life really know what they mean to me, my family, our lives.

3. It takes my pastor to explain how Ruth and Naomi felt at the end of barley season. The entire world was rejoicing, but they had other concerns on their minds. Have you ever been in a situation where it seems like rejoicing is in the air - but you were distracted because of "real life." Their reality was different from that of everyone around them. When barley season ended, so did their understanding of where their next provision would come from. It is one thing to have friends that can party with ya, but how many people are in your circle who can be in the thick of bad times with you. They say bad times don't last...but sometimes the future just doesn't look that bright, in our natural eye.

Who is standing next to you at those times? I am struck by the fact that Ruth and Naomi didn't have a posse...they had a deep friendship, and God. That's it. When you look at it that way, you surely want to pick that other person wisely.

The story of Ruth in the Bible is a short story. That sticks with me because I think you have to study and pursue the lessons, but you don't have all day to learn what they have to teach. When you look at a few chapters of your own life - what story do your relationships and your actions tell? I pray if I'm in a book I get to pick the chapters or write them myself, because there are a myriad of stories I'd just assume skip. Have you ever felt that way - to the next, to the next. Truth is, Ruth has as much to teach women today, as she taught decades ago.

The only question remains...who is listening? I, for one, have an abundance of learning and leading ahead. What do you think about her lessons as they apply to your own life? I started thinking about friendships today, and ultimately, I ended up thinking about the type of example I want to be. I'm glad there is ample training all around me - I've got some growing to do.

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