I spent a summer with Ruth one year while visiting my grandparents. There she sat on the shelf, looking forlorn and barely used. I took her down and turned her around in my hands. Through the living room and down the stairs I went, to the basement, where I could enjoy my new friend. You see, my 8 year old self didn’t know who Ruth, the many times removed grandmother of Jesus, was. All I knew is that I had a new book in my hand and I was going to read it to my book worm heart’s content. I could’ve easily had picked up a bible to read the story of Ruth, I suppose. Unfortunately, my grandparents insisted on using the King James Version of the Bible and it was really hard to understand. Reflecting back to that long ago summer day, I suspect that God led me to her.
As an 8 year old, and for several more informative years, I was absolutely struck by Ruth’s courage. In my mind, she gave up the comfort of her family to go into an unknown land with someone who could have had no meaning to her. As someone who was never very adventurous, I find this slightly repelling and exciting at the same time. Ruth states in Ruth 1:16 “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God”. I think that Ruth sets the example of how faith in God starts. She wasn’t an Israelite, she was a Moabite, a foreigner. She didn’t believe in God but she believed in Naomi. Thinking back to how young I was when I read this story, I think that like Ruth, I may not have believed specifically that God was real but I believed my Grandmother when she said He was, and that was good enough for me.
Flash forward a couple of years to my turbulent teen years. I was forever in angst over love. My focus in Ruth’s story moved from her courage to her romance between her and Boaz. I finally understood what it meant when Ruth “uncovered his feet, and lay down” (Ruth 3:7). Oh, naughty, naughty Ruth! It was what my teen heart craved: love. But what I failed to notice was the love and care Boaz, a man who could have just as easily had ignored this foreign woman working in his fields, showed to Ruth. A Modern Day Boaz states that this is a man that walks with integrity and is confident in his role as leader, in his home and in his community. Boaz was highly respected and in turn was respectful and caring for those around him. He put others before himself and had a strong relationship with God. I failed to notice that. Hormones, I suppose.
However, what I failed to notice as a child and a teenager, I recognized as an adult. Ruth was courageous but she was also faithful. She suffered greatly but she was rewarded greatly. You see, she cultivated her relationship with God. She served Him through kindness to Naomi. She had no future plans, she wasn’t looking for a “perfect man”. As she was learning to lean on the Lord and make Him the center of her world, God was planning something extraordinary. I won’t lie to you and say that I’ve been the perfect adult. Quite the contrary. Even though I accepted the Lord as my Savior as a child, I didn’t really walk in His way. However, that has changed. Every morning, I start my day with my God. Every day, I end my day with my God. I cultivate my relationship with the One who loves me without prejudice despite my shortcomings. I am so glad that I have that kind of love in my life. And just like Ruth, through my trials and tribulations, I know there is something just wonderful waiting for me.
The Bible might be new to you. I know that I am still learning all about it. Every day is a new discovery of learning what the Lord has in store for me. You, yourself, may be wondering where to start. This month we are learning about the Bible. This Sunday’s sermon is on the Old Testament, where Ruth’s story resides.
Come as you are. Everyone starts somewhere, just like Ruth.
If you want a good resource in order to better understand Ruth, check out The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules.