Ever read the book of Ruth? It’s a short read that will probably make you feel real guilty about how you treat your mother-in-law.
The book starts with Naomi and her two daughter-laws. All of them freshly widowed. Back then, a widow was pretty much doomed on par with orphans and stray dogs.
Naomi tells her DILs to go home to their mothers so they have a chance to start a new family. Orpah reluctantly leaves. But Ruth? She demands to stay. She knows what leaving will mean for Naomi and flatly refuses.
I mean, a lot of us don’t even want to invite our MIL to Thanksgiving, let alone travel to the ends of the earth for her, so thanks a lot for making us feel like crap, Ruth!
Anyway, I was saying –
They travel to Naomi’s homeland together and Naomi who was so angry, so depressed at losing her husband and her sons, she says “Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant). Call me Bitter.”
If you live on earth long enough, you’ll experience times of Bitterness. I recall one of my most bitter moments. I was waiting to get my “chemo” shot for my ectopic pregnancy. The nurse was late and I remember waiting well over an hour in some stuffy room, mindlessly watching CNN on the TV hanging on the wall. My arms were bruised and sore from the constant blood draws. I sat there, my jaw clenched. Another lost baby. This one, somewhere unknown outside of my womb. And soon I’d get a painful shot and that too, would die. Where was God? I was so embittered I could taste it.
Then I try to imagine what it would be like to lose all of children and my husband, like Naomi. To be praying in my place of worship and have a mad man enter with a gun. Or to get an incurable disease. To lose my precious home to foreclosure. Or to feel alone and unloved.
There are many things that can make us embittered and that’s why we so often see people so lost, without hope.
What makes the story of Ruth so incredible was how her unconditional love for Naomi transformed into hope. At the very end, Ruth gives birth to a son. It says “Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.”
She was embittered, but then? Found herself sick with love, hope bursting from the seams.
I remember that hour in the waiting room, embittered. But then? Last night, I watched these two nuggets walking down the street, flatly ignoring me, and I too found myself sick with love, hope bursting from the seams.
I guess what I’m saying is – time and time again we see that unconditional love = hope.
I believe it was Mother Theresa who said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
But also, your neighbor. Your friends. The cashier who is taking 15 minutes to look up the code for your spaghetti squash.
Is this love thing supposed to be 24/7? MT fails to mention how freaking annoying our neighbor can be and I feel like it needs to be addressed.
But still – what choice do we have, really? It’s our only hope.
We covered the book of Ruth in the Word Up Club, a membership group I started about a year ago with Susannah Lewis of Whoa! Susannah. I’d be honored to have you join us. Go here if you’d like to learn more.
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