Image: an Anne original. You can tell because it is unfinished.
That’s not really your name, but she might be the character from the Bible you relate to the most.
You know who she is; the loyal, God-fearing, hardworking, outsider. The woman who is alone, but for the friendship of a woman who has renamed herself “bitterness”.
I think if you could ask Ruth at the beginning of Ruth if she feels like she’s been forgotten – she’d probably say, “Yes, I think I’ve been forgotten.”
I know there was a time in my life when she was the character for whom I had the greatest understanding and affinity. Maybe I still do. I’ve never been an Esther – a woman chosen to be queen because of her beauty. I’ve never been a Rachel – the favoured, beautiful one, the one a man would serve 14 years for.
I have been a Ruth – the main character in a book of the Bible that shows us how God can work through the worst situations in our lives to fulfil His purposes. A woman who felt that as a result of life’s twists and turns, events and incidents, she’d been forgotten. That’s what you feel isn’t it ? Forgotten.
The truth is you are not forgotten.
You feel as though you are. You live in a world where the Rachels and Esthers are paraded in front of you – youth and beauty are on their side and they don’t have the baggage you have. You look at them and you wonder why anyone would ever choose you over them.
While I’ve always felt this affinity for Ruth, the first few years after my marriage ended, I was perhaps more of a Naomi than a Ruth. I felt that I had been left empty. I felt that I had followed where I was meant to go and in the end I had been discarded, abandoned far from where I’d started out and left to return home with my head down, feeling small and useless.
At that time I believed that I was one of those women who was better off alone, a woman who’d been spent, a woman who would not be of any value or worth to a man ever again. A woman who now had even more reasons that qualified me to be passed over for others. And to tell you the truth I was happy about that for a few years. People asked me if I thought I’d ever get married again and I’d tell them “I’d be too much work for anyone.” The truth was I knew that I’d lost my ability to trust others, to see the best in people, so I’d go on to say … “I’m too busy with work and raising my son. I wouldn’t wish myself on anyone.”
Over the years God healed my heart, He gradually placed friends, family, my counsellor, people in my life who spoke into it in ways that encouraged me to heal, to learn to trust and consider that maybe God had more for me. Through their questions and challenges I eventually reached the point that most of us reach — we have been designed for more than we think. I felt that I was closer to God than I had been in my life and yet there was something more for me — maybe I was, as people had suggested, designed to be a helpmeet.
And that, my dear Ruth, is the part of you that isn’t going to be fulfilled by your friendships, your hobbies, your work. Once this realisation had been awakened in me — I then struggled for some time. Who’s to say wasn’t I meant to be alone? But if I was meant to be alone then surely I would know? Would that be the desire of my heart? Wouldn’t that be thing that I would want? I prayed over and over that a desire for anything other than what God wanted for me would be removed from my heart.
I had good friends – a number of them. Some were married friends, some were single, some had never married, some had married but were now separated or divorced. I wondered why having all of these friends, wasn’t enough. I kept busy – but under it all was this desire being woken up – for more. I know because it took me a while to realise that. When I did, I looked at myself and I started to weigh it all up – I looked at the complications and baggage I had accrued and I felt quite certain that no one would sign up for life with an almost middle-aged woman, who was someone else’s cast off, and life with someone else’s child. Not really a catch right?
Then I stumbled upon the “Redeeming Ruth” series by Mark Driscoll.
Mark Driscoll’s name isn’t one that is always mentioned in context with the useful things he has done. However I can’t talk about Ruth without referring people to the “Redeeming Ruth” series – elements of this six part series were incredibly helpful to me. I began to understand that there were men out there who perhaps are worthwhile – there were men like Boaz out there. There were men out there who would be prepared to redeem a Ruth. Men who weren’t out and about consuming all that the world has to offer. This is still true today, there are also men who don’t yet know they are meant to be a Boaz.
So Ruth, your Boaz maybe doesn’t know who he is yet. Pray for him…even without knowing who he is.
Ruth, keep doing what makes you Ruth, your loyalty, your hard work and your heart will be what wins him over in the end. Don’t change yourself to attract anything other than a Boaz.
I even had a friend or two telling me to “get out there”, to “widen my circle”, to “broaden my horizons”, people were offering to set me up with this person or that person .. I politely (mostly) refused all offers, because in my heart, I had the story of Ruth locked in. She just got on with her life and her path took her to the field of her kinsman redeemer. A man who noticed her, kept an eye out for her, prayed for her, provided for her and eventually redeemed her – the man became the answer to his own prayers for her. (I like that bit 🙂 )
As I was going through this rather arduous journey, it was emotional, some nights I prayed/cried myself to sleep asking God to help me feel fulfilled with all that I had. I prayed to have that breakthrough feeling that “this is it – this is the way I’m meant to be, I can do this alone”. In the middle of all of this a good friend showed me this powerful performance of a poem I will wait for you, it hit the spot. I think that it summed it all up for me. I wrote it out and locked it away in my heart, with the story of Ruth. About a year later that friend was not only my best friend, but also my husband. It turns out he was my Boaz.
Take heart though Ruth my friend, my Boaz was not looking for a Ruth. Yours might not be either, yet, but one day he will – and you still need to be you then.
I’m not going to lie to you – there are elements of the Ruth story I don’t quite get. The threshing floor? What on earth was she doing there? What was that about? I’m not sure. The fact remains however that was part of the story and it seems a necessary part too … though I’m still not sure what I think about it.
The thing we need to remember about Ruth after all of this, is her place in the genealogy of the Saviour of the world. She was crucial. While she might have felt that she was forgotten and overlooked — she was not. She was overlooked by the ones who would have interfered with the future God had prepared for her, and that’s a good thing as far as I can tell!
You, my friend are not forgotten, as I’ve said to a few of my friends over the years, maybe your Boaz isn’t quite ready yet, or maybe you aren’t quite ready for him yet. You don’t want to rush ahead of God. Keep doing what you are doing – be loyal to those God has placed in your life, work where He has placed you. You never know you might be doing all of this in the vicinity of a man who has a lonely heart, and he is waiting to redeem your lonely heart … he’s just not sure who you are yet.
While you wait for an earthly Boaz remember to entrust your heart to and fill your heart with your heavenly Boaz – the One who has already redeemed you. the one who loves more than any earthly Boaz can or will.
The One who already knows your value, the One who knows your worth.
And Ruth, if He has a Boaz for you – wait for Him to bring him along.
You have not been forgotten.
If you watched the I will wait for you clip. Please take the time to watch the follow up I waited for you (You will need about 10 minutes, and a few tissues.)
Disclaimer: If your name is Rachel or Esther – no hard feelings. We do love you too! 🙂
Image: a colour version of the unfinished original, also unfinished.