A while ago on a sleepy morning I read through the bible book of Ruth. At work, with a machine coffee, truly early, with the rest room quietly humming with conversation around me. It had occurred to me that I only read the book through the lens of Ruth, the main character in the plot. It’s a bit like the film “the other Boleyn girl” – all eyes on the famous one! So, as I thought she might have something to say to me in the depths of feeling truly grotty, I read through the filter of Naomi, (her mother in law) I read it in a snappy translation so it felt like any everyday read for me. I made a few notes and found to my suprise that I could see God doing things for Naomi that I hoped he might do for me – provide, care, strenghten. And then I went to work and left the notes for a while! (quotes from the “Message” version of the bible)
“Naomi left home to live in a different place. Maybe she discussed it with her husband and sons, maybe she was just swept along in a patriarchal culture. Gone to the place of an enemy nation, yet she settled, raised sons with or without her husband’s support following his death. Did she start to lose her hope then, only to have it briefly revive on the boys’ marriages? Her sons die too. That’s triple tragedy sufficient to knock anyone’s faith and spirit. She says God “has dealt her a hard blow, a bitter pill to swallow”, yet her daughters in law see something of the God of grace and love in her – they offer to stay and accompany her. Openly affectionate and grateful, aware of how the daughters in law have loved her sons. She’s honest and realistic about her age, marriage prospects and status in life. Attractive enough in character that her daughters in law cling to her weeping.
She calls herself “bitter” – I think she is depressed, sad and I can see why. Knocked sideways at all the losses. She says she “left (home) full of life and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back” “The strong one has ruined me”. Angry, yes, bitter at God, yes. So honest that she doesn’t varnish or hide her feelings.
God provides – through a devoted daughter in law’s work, provision of left over lunches, conversation, grain for bread. Naomi perks up “God hasn’t quite walked out on us – he still loves us, in bad times as well as good” Ruth is safe and provided for; being in the “house of bread” is good for her. Naomi’s got her strength back – she’s planning and scheming for Ruth’s future happiness – and even perhaps for her own provision and care. A good man is in the picture. The women have an open, warm, friendly relationship. Even so Naomi hasn’t totally run out of resources – selling land that she still owns. Ruth and husband provided for her, produce an heir – a role, warmth, a future and a hope for Naomi, who dotes on the baby boy like every good granny should!