So, after seeing a lot of my friends and Instacquaintances (yes I just made that word up, cool) post about how they are reading through Ruth, I decided maybe I would join the bandwagon a little late and do my own little read through/study.
Tonight I did just Chapter 1, and I’m planning (hopefully) to continue over the next 3 days to finish the book, since it only has 4 chapters.
I started out reading it and was just kinda, “Oh, okay, so her [Naomi] life was really sad… her husband and her sons died in an unknown amount of time and she was left with no family… alright.” But then, I decided to really think through some of the passages, and I found some pretty interesting thoughts I thought I would share.
Although Naomi has a tendency to be very sad and bitter (more on that in a minute), she does encourage her daughter in laws to become their own people again. She encourages them in verses 8-14 to leave her and return to their own people and families, but she does it in a “my life is so terrible, you don’t want to be around me, I have nothing to offer you” type of way, but she still does encourage them to pursue their own lives again, and not be afraid to seek new husbands. And one of the daughters does choose to do this – Orpah. This is the only thing we know about her. But as for Ruth, she not only wept with her mother in law, she shows her love and dedication to this woman by refusing to leave her side.
Probably the most famous verse (or group of verses) from the entire book happen in the first chapter, Ruth 1: 16-17, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me to you.”
What’s interesting to me is that this verse is now used at weddings. This is a verse that shows and explicates true, selfless, Jesus-like love for a woman that wasn’t her flesh and blood, but she became her adoptive family when she married Naomi’s son. This is really similar to the adoption analogy that is seen in many parts of the gospels. I love the fact that although this can be used to describe the selfless love that we are expected to have in marriage, but it really is more about selflessly loving the family and body of Christ.
Later in this same chapter, we see these two women journey back to Ruth’s homeland – Bethlehem – and upon their return, Naomi tells everyone that knew her to call her by Mara, not Naomi. This is because she believes that her life has been made bitter by the Lord. Naomi means “pleasant” while Mara means “bitter” interestingly enough.
This point didn’t seem very important to me at first. Yeah, she changed her name because she felt that her life was horrible, but so what? The importance in this is not just the name change, but the idea behind it. Her entire identity was now defined by that loss. The loss of her husband and her sons defined her entire being to the point that she felt the need to be renamed in a way that she felt portrayed her personality. She did not feel bitter about her life. She WAS bitter. That’s a scary thought.
I know I have a tendency to be defined by things that are happening in my life. I am depression, I am anxiety, I am failure; instead of seeing things how they are. I may feel depressed, I may feel anxious, I may feel failure if I don’t succeed the way I want, but I am not those things. I am choosing now to no longer be defined by those things and instead to let them be what they are: conditions, shapes, states of my life that change every second. Why be defined by something that will be different tomorrow? Instead, I’m choosing now to be defined by what I know will not change: my status in God’s kingdom. I am His child, His beloved, and I’m ready to start being defined by that. There’s so much freedom when I live that way. It’s time to embrace it.