We all have our favorites, right? In the Bible, my two favorite women are Sarah and Ruth.
Sarah, because no matter what Abraham did she remained faithful to God. And God honored her.
Ruth, because she played the hand she was dealt.
I’m sure Ruth did not want to be widowed and she did not want to be childless. But she was. However, she didn’t bugger off home like the other widowed sister-in-law. She looked around at what was left and thought, “Right. I’ve got my mother-in-law, Naomi, and she’s got a God she trusts. I’ll go with her and her God, and together we’ll find our Kinsman Redeemer and he’ll take care of us. And then we’ll go from there.”
And of course she did this. She and Naomi found Boaz, he did the honorable thing and he and Ruth got married. And from their line -from Ruth’s faithfulness and Boaz doing the right thing – eventually came Jesus. Who saved everyone.
All because Ruth played the hand she had been dealt. She didn’t refuse the cards.
The problem with stories we know well is that we re-read them already knowing the ending:
“And of course Ruth met Boaz and it was all tickety-boo in the end.”
“And of course Noah obeyed God. The rain came down and the flood came up and they were marooned with stinky animals for aaaages. But the dove came back, the waters went down and there was land for them and on they went.”
“Well of course Joseph‘s brothers did try to kill him BUT (after various nasty episodes) it all came right. Because Joseph became ruler of Egypt and his brothers had to come begging, his dad survived to see him and he forgave everyone in the end.”
And we re-read them and praise God’s faithfulness and thank Him for His same faithfulness today.
Yet it’s hard to rejoice when you don’t know the end of your own story, and the people in the Bible didn’t know theirs either. What was it like for them?
No one talks about Ruth’s grief in her story line. I bet she walked in tears most of the way with Naomi. Questioning God, questioning why her life should have gone that way. But she kept walking. Ruth persevered which must mean that (unlike Naomi) she had hope that her story wasn’t over. She wouldn’t give up. She refused to go, “Well stuff this. It’s over for me. What’s the point.” She did the next thing available, and then the next, and then the next.
Which is actually the only way one can walk out one’s story, right? There is no skipping chapters. There is no flipping to the back page to check in advance.
So I have had to ask, like Ruth, “What are the cards I’ve been dealt, and what can I do with them now?”
Like Ruth I weep for no marriage and no home, but I have two beautiful children and I have somewhere that we can go. And have now gone. It’s just on the other side of the world.
The opportunity to be here is a severe mercy because it forces me and the children to leave so much behind. But it is mercy nonetheless. To be allowed to return and be present to people we love. While they are still here to be present to.
So, like Ruth, I shall persevere and do the next thing.
The story isn’t over.