In Day 10 we discussed the losses of Naomi, and how she needed to move forward, and travel home to Bethlehem. We saw her gut-wrenching plea to her two daughters-in-law, to go back to their own families. She expressed her feelings of heartbreak that her God, Yahweh, had turned his back on her. We also ended the day by acknowledging that even though her life surely seemed in shambles, God had not turned His back on her.
Continue reading through Ruth in verses 1:14-18.
What does Orpah decide to do?
What about Ruth? What does she do?
Like Naomi, Ruth and Orpah had a choice to make. They could return to their childhood heritage, family, and gods, or they could journey to a new land, creating a new life, with Naomi.
Ruth chose Naomi and the God of the Israelites.
In 1:18, Ruth made her case, and Naomi wasn’t going to turn her away again. Ruth and Naomi needed each other, and God provided one with the other.
Naomi’s return to Bethlehem was not a pretty one. After being gone for ten-plus years, this was not the triumphant return she’d hoped for.
Moving on to Ruth 1:19-22, the two travelers make it to Bethlehem, and the town is buzzing. A group of women come to greet them, and what does Naomi immediately do in verse 1:20?
Naomi was supposed to be in the throes of grandmother life, snuggling babies and laughing with her sons. But none of that was going to come true for her. She didn't even have her husband to share his shoulder.
She went home to nothing with nothing but desperation. Her triumphant return with husbands, new daughters and babies to show off was not to be. Naomi was holding her unopened packages out for everyone to see. "Look at my despair, look at my empty arms, see how God has forgotten me!” Naomi didn’t waste time or energy faking it.
Upon her return to Bethlehem, she was going to have to tell people her entire family is gone. She was going to have to keep saying it, over and over again, until all of Bethlehem knew. She was devastated, desolate, and had tasted bitterness.
She literally changed her name to Mara, meaning bitter. Anyone who spoke with her knew the wrongs done to her. Nothing could make you forget Naomi's bitterness because she defined herself by it. While I don’t think we are meant to stay bitter—there’s honesty here. There’s a rawness in confessing anger and resentment. I’m not old or wise, but I have lived enough to infer that pretending to be fine is harder and more damaging than actually coming face-to-face with hurt.
Sometimes in Christian culture, we learn very well-meaning ways to put up a front. A pretty, southern, genuinely sweet front: poised, well dressed, hair neatly done, happy smile, kind words, and meaningful hugs, “Life’s great, how are you?” laughed down the church hallways.
Now I’m not saying we should stop taking showers and applying mascara, or that we need to update our social media every hour like a stock ticker. Please don’t misread me here; I love hair and makeup just as much as any pageant queen, and I think Instagram is so fun.
But! What I want to speak to is that within the body of Christ, within our small groups, within our friend and family circles—are we being honest?
Are we safely sharing hurts and roots of bitterness, or are we politely parading as frauds?
Naomi was brutally honest—but she was still obedient to Christ.
Christ means for us to live in community with the church, he also means for us to live within it honestly. Sometimes that may look like smeared mascara, tear lines down our blush, and hair that’s been sprayed two days too many with dry shampoo. But you know what, that might be the perfect time to ask a trusted friend over. Let your guard down and call someone you admire. Ask them over to pray, or ugly cry over the phone. It can be hard, but it is holy.
We don’t know how long Naomi requested people to address her as Mara, and we also have no proof that anyone ever actually called her that. She was trying to rename herself, but it wasn’t God’s purpose or plan to do so. God didn’t mean for her to be bitter. God didn’t rename her that; she did. He had not turned away from her, and had no intention of leaving her desolate.
Our packages may be a part of our story, but they don’t define it. They aren’t the first and last points of who we are.They also aren’t the most important, either.
Losing two babies through miscarriage is a part of my story, but I also feel God whispering to me that my most important ‘identifier’ in life is my relation to Him. I am a daughter of the Most High King, with an inheritance of heaven. Whether or not I remain marred by my losses is up to me
Sometimes we act in a way that is not at all what God has created us for. Naomi was named sweet, pleasant one, but for a time, she let her circumstances and situation define her and turn her into something opposite.
We must remember that we have not been forgotten and God has not spoken bitterness over His daughters.
Whatever hard things have been thrown at us, whatever Satan has tried to warp and manipulate in front of our eyes; like Sarah, we must persevere; we must look up.
How would you define yourself?
Do you think your packages have ever had influence on how you define yourself? If yes, how?
Use this quote as a launching pad to reflect on your own life:
“This is where gospel-shaped community comes in. God has designed our warfare to include one another. We can’t wield the shield of faith alone. We need brothers and sisters to come alongside us to hold up our arms. More specifically, we need brothers and sisters to speak faith-building words to our souls.” Jonathan Parnell
Who has been there to speak ‘faith-building words’ to your soul?
Who might need you to speak truth and love into their life?
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