I am itching to dig a little into the Bible. I want to hear the whisper of God in the words and lives of Bible characters. Over the next few weeks I will be doing a series on the book of Ruth, to look again at the story breathed out by God and let it write me.
How do you respond when God has taken everything from you?
God hasn’t taken everything from me, of course. I have lots of things in my life. But there are days when it feels like it. I miss running. I miss singing, proper singing. I miss my job.
And I know that I have lots to be thankful for – but let me moan, will ya?
I am Naomi.
I do so like Naomi. Naomi leaves the land where God dwells because she was hungry and she was tired of waiting. She goes to live in a foreign land, and her sons marry people they’re not meant to, and they settle down to life in a different land. And who is she to argue with marrying the Moabites? It’s not like they’re living in Israel anymore. You can still believe in God and everything, but you’ve got to make do, you’ve got to survive somehow.
And then the days get darker, her husband dies, then both her sons and she is left with nothing. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she says, as she comes back to face the equivalent of a massive school reunion. She will not be called by something that means ‘pleasant’. It is a lie, and she does not want to pretend. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life bitter.”
She is an old woman now, limping back to Israel because she has nothing left. She comes back because of the successful harvest, the chance of finding financial support, perhaps, from distant family. She comes back to God and his land with stomping feet and a blackened heart. She returns to God because she has to.
I ran away from home once, for about three hours. (Or maybe thirty minutes- time passing is always hard to measure when you’re a child). I went down the road, walked down a path and sat on a bank for a while, pulling at the grass and sulking in earnest. And then I got cold and walked back because really – what was I going to do? I had no money, no car, no real inclination to make it on my own. I returned because I had to, but I stomped my feet and slammed the door when I got in.
I am Naomi so much of the time. And I love that she is in the Bible: that little nod from God that He knows our hearts, He dearly loves even the grumpy and overdramatic ones, He includes us in His story.
But as much as I love Naomi, this week it is Ruth who is calling to me. Ruth is crazy for leaving Moab. She must have had extended family back at home who could perhaps have supported her. She was going to a strange land with no husband, and therefore no social standing. In a society that values women only for their ability to bear children, how would she survive, a foreigner? She was crazy for going.
But she went. Orpah was sensible, she loved her mother-in-law but she let her go. Ruth was the crazy one, clinging to her mother-in-law and to her God. She doesn’t stomp, she clings.
She came to God’s land as one who would trust the little she knew about Him. “Your God will be my God” – what a simple, crazy confession of faith – no conditions, no ifs, no buts, no ‘i’ll see how it goes’, she jumped all in.
So what do you do when God has taken, and you’re left with nothing?
I understand Naomi, and I love her honesty, but I am learning, slowly, to respond like Ruth. I want to go willingly to God, not because I am forced to.
I want to put down the protective doubt every once in a while and choose to trust even though I may look stupid.
I want to come to God because I crazy love him, I want to step into foreign lands when I have nothing, simply because i know His character. I want to be like Ruth – I want to cling to Him.
With thanks to Cat Caird for the fun Bible study together!
Over to you:
Blogoversary draw: Thanks for all your comments on my Blogoversary post! I truly appreciated all who took the time to comment, and wished I could have given a book or CD to all of you. (But that would have been expensive!) The winners (chosen by a random number generator cos I’m that high-tech) were Joy Lenton and Sam Sadie. Congratulations! I will get in touch by email.
The next few weeks leading up to Easter (except next week when I make a brief excursus into feminism). Do read the relevant passage and join in with your responses to (and questions of) the passage in the comments.
- Thurs 21 Feb – Ruth 1
- Weds 27 Feb – Feminism and me, linking with J R Goudeau, Danielle Vermeer and Preston Yancey
- Thurs 7 Mar – Ruth 1, part 2
- Thurs 14 Mar – Ruth 2
- Thurs 21 Mar – Ruth 3
- Thurs 28 Mar – Ruth 4 and overview
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