Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When Our Naomis Need Ruths

When someone who has been a godly example to you stumbles, how do you react?

Some of my most cherished blessings are the family members and friends who have been godly examples to me throughout life. Maybe you have some too: mature believers who have taught you in the way of the Lord through word and action. But like anyone, those mentors can hit foggy patches in the journey. It may not be the result of sin or rebellion against God. A devastating loss, betrayal or calamity can slam anyone so hard against the ground she wonders if a single bone remains unbroken. But the question remains: when the strong stumble, do we step up or step back?

As if anticipating our need for an example, God has given us a beautiful picture of a young woman becoming an example to her example. You may have heard this tale before, but not like this. As it unfolds place yourself in our heroine's sandals and deeply consider how you would have responded.

You are married and extremely close to your husband's mother. From the moment you met her, the sweet gentleness of her spirit made you want to run and hug her. As your relationship grows, this mother-in-love shares the secret of her joy: her God is all powerful. While He doesn't demand the blood of a firstborn son, he does command obedient faith that trusts Him above all. In return, He promises the blessings of children, riches and length of days to enjoy them. He loves His people. Day in, day out, you watch this woman live her faith. Just as you fell in love with the spirit of your spiritual mother, you come to fall in love with the Unseen God. You believe.

Then your father-in-law dies, leaving your precious mentor a widow. Shortly thereafter your husband's brother is taken in a premature death. Finally, death snatches your own beloved mate.

As grief subsides, you slowly find joy in life once more. You are yet young; chances are good of starting over once more. But while you find hope again, your late husband's mother does not. The woman you first knew fades and a bitter, depressed, torn one takes her place. You share her grief but realize there is something more. Something else is terribly, terribly wrong.

One day your spiritual mother announces she is returning to her home land. As the elder of the family, her decision includes you. Together you pack your few belongs and set out for the unknown.

But halfway into the journey your mother-in-law does the unthinkable: she commands you to go back to your gods and their land. You are in shock. Why? Why after all she has taught you about her God would she want you to go back to lies? Does she doubt your love? No, she weeps tears of gratefulness as she thanks you for your kindness to her and her son. Then why?
“Because I have nothing else to give you. I'm old and can't give you the man you who is key to your future, protection and legacy. My God's hand is against me and beats me with bitter blows. My grief for myself is crushing enough, but the thought of you suffering because of me is more than I can bear. It is better for you to serve at the feet of idols than suffer with me at the hand of the true God.”

What would you do? The person who taught you about this God sees Him now as an enemy. What do you do when your teacher needs a teacher?

As you likely guessed this story was once the reality of a young widow named Ruth. For years, Ruth's mother-in-law had taught her in the way of truth. Now in her pit of grief, Naomi needed what she had given. In reflecting on Ruth's life I see three pillars we can build our hearts and actions on when reaching out to our own stricken Naomis

Ruth Showed Naomi Trust

Ruth and Naomi faced the same loss. Their lot was a shared one, yet Naomi believed God had brought her misery upon her. Ruth, on the other hand, continued to trust Him. Why?

The inhabitants of Bethlehem wondered the same thing. Ruth's quiet trust contrasted so starkly against Naomi's hopelessness it had everyone talking. So much so when a certain wealthy land owner meet the foreign widow, her fame had gone before her. Boaz reveals Ruth's source of faith when he says, “The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” (Ruth 2:12)

Like Boaz, Ruth believed God would reward those who diligently sought Him--even when her current reality showed opposing evidence. Though not of his blood, she became a daughter of Abraham because she judged Him faithful Who promised.

I think one reason we feel it so hard when an older believer struggles is because we depend on their faith to supply our own. As a sapling relies on the wooden stakes to brace it against the wind, we lean on older Christians. But like that sapling, our true need is to stretch our roots downward, establishing our own testimony of God's trustworthiness. We must be witnesses of God's faithfulness; not merely hearers. Only then will we be able to give our beloved elders compassion instead of criticism. Rather than looking down at them because they disappointed us, let's get on our knees beside them. In that posture pray for them and whisper God still uses evil for good.

Ruth Showed Naomi Understanding Love

Because Ruth wasn't counting on Naomi's testimony to sustain her faith, she could look past the bitterness and see the bleeding heart inside. That Christ-like action, filled her with understanding love; a love that kept Ruth from becoming offended when Naomi didn't even acknowledge her to the women of Bethlehem. A love that didn't chide Naomi for not taking the initiative to see that their basic needs were met. Instead of offense, she had compassion. Instead of feeling belittled, she felt sympathy and shouldered the responsibility of providing for their needs so Naomi had nothing else to burden her mind with.

Ruth Showed Naomi Courageous Submission

What awes me is even after Naomi misjudged God and was more consumed with herself than Ruth's welfare, Ruth still respected and even submitted to her mother-in-law's instruction. Ruth didn't make Naomi feel as an inferior Christian for stumbling. In fact, it was almost as if she purposely determined to make the transition as smooth as possible when Naomi was ready to assume her motherly role – even if the stakes meant Ruth's future and reputation.
While I'm not advocating foolish hero worship where we blindly submit, I do believe deference is a powerful act of love we can give our Naomis (male or female) when they need Ruths. When Naomi told Ruth how to secure their future, she wasn't instructing her to be immoral or heedless. The recommended route was scary, but not ungodly. So when our recovering mentors seek our good, let us gracefully welcome them back. As before, continue to judge their instruction against God's word, but don't shut them out of your life because of their momentary faith fatigue.

When Naomi faltered, Ruth refused to leave her beloved mother-in-law behind. Instead she befriended, loved and cared for her when it was most difficult, trusting in the wings of the LORD God of Israel. May we do likewise. When our Naomis slip, may we, like Ruth, become their flesh and blood illustrations of what it means to trust God, live out understanding love and courageous submission.

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  1. Wow... There are so many beautiful things here that I have never seen before! Thank you so much for sharing! What an encouragement!

    1. Amen, there is SO much in Ruth's life for us to pattern in our own! Thanks for sharing, Amanda!! :)

  2. WOW! This is wonderful! I am so amazed by your perception and intuitiveness! It must be a "God thing". What amazing thoughts you shared...I am so blessed to have you in my life! Thank you, Honey!

    1. Thanks for always being my cheerleader, dear Grammy!! :) The Lord taught me so much in writing this post; I'm so thankful He allowed that encouragement to be multiplied!