There some sappy, Nicholas Sparks loving, Grace has Bob’s dead wife’s heart, can’t live without my beautiful vampire, happily ever after stories out there that drive me absolutely crazy. Love stories always have to be so dramatic to satiate the target audience of lonely housewives over 40 and 15 year old sacks of irrational emotions… I mean teenagers.
The story of Ruth has some of those same markers. Naomi is in a foreign land when every male in her family dies. Her husband and two sons, gone. Then she says to her daughter in-laws, “Leave me! Go on without me! Live your lives.” So one leaves “See Ya!” and one clings desperately to Naomi and says, “I, Ruth, will never leave you! Not even death will separate us!” Pretty dramatic, huh? So they go back to Naomi’s home town, Bethlehem, and Naomi is so changed by grief people don’t recognize her. She even changes her name. Like if your name was Joy and you changed your name legally to God Hates Me… Smith.
Then of course you have Ruth meeting Boaz while she is working for scraps. Cue montage of him flirting with her in the fields, sneaking around and leaving grain for her to find and dipping their bread in wine together Lady and the Tramp style. So Boaz marries Ruth for love not knowing yet that their love continues down a family tree to Jesus. Their love helps save the world! Dramatic.
This is really a story that you could produce as a romantic comedy and miss the some of the most humanizing parts. What draws me to this story is not romance… although there is plenty in it. I like simple in my systems but its complexity that breeds good characters.
Naomi might seem a little over the top, until you have real tragedy hit your life. I’m not talking about, “Pumpkin lattes aren’t on the menu anymore” #OMG #theStruggleIsReal. I mean real tragedy: losing your parents or a friend to a slow disease, miscarrying your child so you never even get to meet them, watching everything you hold dear go up in a house fire.
I think sometimes we all need a PASS to be a little hysterical when tragedy comes to visit. And these three characters have tragedy in spades.
I talk to a lot of young men and women who are panicked because they are 25 and they haven’t found “The One.” Or some older adults who feel the same pressure because they got a divorce and they are scared to be alone. Boaz was 80 years old and was described as, “Not often taken to asking after women.” Ruth was 40, widowed and living in a country foreign to her in a two bedroom condo with her mother-in-law who is clinically depressed. The Bible doesn’t say exactly how many cats they had, but I’m guessing it was more than one.
What does it take for people to have hope in a situation like that? Alone, brushed by death, out of your element, changed by real grief, feeling like God has abandoned you, sinking yourself into your work to keep busy, financially in ruins, dependent on others… but yet… hopeful.
I remember what it felt like to drive our car to the hospital while Charissa was in the back seat pregnant and bleeding. The whole time I was praying and telling Charissa that we were just going to believe God for a miracle. That there was no way God was going to let our baby die when we had always been faithful to him and he had answered our prayer after two years of trying to have a baby.
I remember what it felt like to be afraid I was losing Charissa because we both were trying to handle our grief alone after losing that child. Then we got pregnant and again proceeded in faith. There was no way that would happen to us again… just before Christmas… but it did. There were times I would put my head in her lap and weep. A little dramatic… but I felt like I deserved a PASS.
What gives us the hope to keep going after that? I don’t mean just to keep trying to have a baby or get back in the saddle and date again after the death of a spouse. It is the weirdest most indescribable feeling to experience the kind of grief that changes you to the point people don’t recognize you, but to remain hopeful. To hope not just that you can survive this pain, but that it will get better. That God has not abandoned you. I remember my chest feeling heavy and my heart aching while simultaneously pulling myself out of bed to go to church and praise God.
Hope is an enigma. Ruth keeps hope for Naomi’s sake. I could say that I kept it for Charissa’s sake, for my future child’s sake… but I don’t really know why other than a life lived for Christ prepared me to have hope. So even when not one part of my body was striving for hope it was a reflex. Is that faith? Is it madness? Is it theatrics? It’s Hope.