I have never liked the book of Ruth. That is a very good way to start off writing about the Bible, I think. Probably it sounds super encouraging and now you all are just clamoring at the bits to read about Ruth, am I right?
The book of Ruth takes up exactly one and one half thin, gold rimmed pages in my Bible but there is a big story in that little space. Mostly the story belongs to Ruth, a beautiful portrait of faithfulness and redemption. It is one and a half pages of God creating beauty from what was once ashes. Again. That is what God does, it seems, from the ancient time of Ruth to my present day.
I never really understood why it was such a Very Big Deal that Ruth followed Naomi. I kind of felt as though Orpah got the short end of the stick in the story. I mean, I am blessed to have great in-laws (amen and hallelujah) but I’m pretty sure when that faced with the choice of heading off into the desert with your mother in law or going back to your own family most people would have hightailed it right out of Moab. Plus, let’s be honest here: her name was Orpah. Poor thing.
I thought Ruth was sweet and all but I also thought that the story was about her faithfulness to Naomi. And I didn’t really relate to her much because I tend more towards sarcastic than sweet. I’m sure you have not at all noticed that.
On Mother’s Day this year my pastor spoke about Ruth and I was starting to tune out a bit (I really am setting such a good example in this post) because I grew up in church, I know the story. Except then he said something that I had not heard anyone say before. Or maybe I had, before, in my pre-motherhood life and only this time it fell on me fully because it fit.
The story of Ruth is not about how she stayed with Naomi.
It is about how she stayed with God’s people.
If we are talking about identity as it relates to motherhood then this is it. This is it in those early years when every night is sleepless and every surface is sticky and you are plumb tired. This is it when you’re doing the hard, often unseen work of raising small people and your days are endlessly long. This is the encouragement to cling close to community, drinking in fellowship to ward off the isolation that swells when little ones are little and chips away at who we thought we were.
But mostly because this is it when everything burns down to ashes, when the fractured dreams are still smoldering and it seems impossible to redeem the rubble, let alone create something beautiful from it. That if at the core of our identity we find ourselves in Christ we will look at whatever is before us and say to him “for wherever You go, I will go.”
I want my daughter to see Ruth in me, determined and faithful and redeemed. But I hope that in the messy moments in which I am Naomi, wearing my grief bitterly and weeping, she looks long at my life and says “Your God will be my God.”