Stomping back to the promised land {Ruth 1}

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:

  • Which parts of the story of Ruth 1 speak to you today?
  • Which are you most like at the moment: Ruth or Naomi?

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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23 Responses to Stomping back to the promised land {Ruth 1}

  1. Mark Allman 23rd February, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Great post. I think Ruth’s declaration that she will ” where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die” is one of the greatest statements of love of all time. How strong a statement of love could we give someone if we told them that I am all in with you no matter. I ‘m gonna love the things you love, I gonna do the things you do, and I going to be were you are. Tanya we should be this way towards the ones we love and they towards us all. the. time. I know I love things that the people I love love for the simple reason is they love them no other.
    To love God like this…..

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      Yup, exactly – to love God like this – it is the big challenge. I need to hear it every day.
      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. Jillie 21st February, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    This is really good, Tanya! You have given me yet another perspective on this great old account of Ruth and Naomi. Yeah…most of the time I’m like Naomi, but so desire to be a Ruth. I do a lot of kicking and screaming, dragging my heels against God’s way over mine. Or a Mary over a Martha, as one of your other commenters stated. The battle with ‘self’ is exhausting, isn’t it?! And discouragement. Not really believing God can bring good out of our circumstances. Yet He always does, when we yield.
    Looking forward to your further posts on the book of Ruth. Your perspectives and insights are refreshing!

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:14 am #

      I do my own fair share of kicking and screaming too! πŸ™‚

  3. Mandy 21st February, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    I am like Naomi, but so want to be Ruth. Challenged by this and looking forward to the rest of your posts in this series Tanya.

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      I’m so glad this spoke to you. Thank you, Mandy.

  4. Joy Lenton 21st February, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I love the way you have inhabited the mind and spirit of both Naomi and Ruth as you explore the story. Perhaps like Mary and Martha, there is a bit of both of them in us. I can certainly relate to Naomi’s feelings of loss and hopelessness (and grumpiness, truth be told) , as well as seeking in my heart to determinedly follow after God no matter what it takes or where it may lead.
    A great post, Tanya. Tender, insightful and thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to walking the path with you and Ruth in the weeks ahead. Thank you. Blessings and love πŸ™‚ xx

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Ah yes, the grumpiness! Glad I’m not the only one!

      Much love xx

  5. Helen Murray 21st February, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    I can’t help wondering how Naomi reacted when Ruth told her that she’d stay, that ‘your God will be my God’. What an amazing gift. Maybe a little of her bitterness melted away… I want to be Ruth too. To stand firm for what’s right without a thought for self-preservation.
    Beautiful and thought-provoking. Thank you.

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Maybe her bitterness melted away a little – that’s such a lovely thought!
      And this “To stand firm for what’s right without a thought for self-preservation.” YES. Such a great way of putting it.

  6. Liz Eph 21st February, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I don’t know which I am. Maybe Ruth having moved to live in a land which is not my own and which is an ancient enemy of my country. It’s funny how deep feelings still run. Even Brits who love coming on holiday here have a deep seated prejudice. I wondered as I was reading your post – I remember reading that Ruth’s people’s speak a very close language and have joint ancestors. I wonder if it was like an Irish girl deciding to follow her English MIL to England. As soon as she opened her mouth to speak roughly the same language but with an accent that couldn’t hide itself there would be preconceptions about her.

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      I so love these insights that you bring. Yes – it’s so true that Brits are very prejudiced against the French! I grew up in Kent, and because of all the French tourists doing idiotic things, there’s a big, unchallenged hatred of the French. It’s so interesting to imagine Ruth in that kind of context, it helps to place it. And perhaps the England/Ireland thing is even closer a parallel… Brilliant thought – thank you.

  7. Cat 21st February, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Great stuff Tanya :)! I am looking forward to the rest of your blog posts on Ruth!! πŸ™‚

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks, Cat! I might need to meet with you again to get inspiration though!

  8. Lynn 21st February, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    We are studying Ruth at church this term too and although I am really familiar with the story I am amazed at what I am leaning through looking at it again. I was really pleased to see you writing on it too. I think sometimes I have been like Naomi but like you I really want to be like Ruth. I will pray that everyone who reds this will be blessed by our Lord to be more and more like Ruth in our lives. Thank you Taanya. I always enjoy your posts.

    • Tanya 24th February, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Aha – God is obviously wanting to speak to you through Ruth, one way or another!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me.

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