Gracefully Truthful

Alive,Emptiness,Fear,Gospel,Hope,Lost,Love

Read His Words Before Ours!

Ruth 1-4
Judges 2:16-23
Matthew 1:5-6, 16

I stood beside Naomi and watched as the distance between us and Orpah grew. Orpah looked back once, fear and hope warring in her eyes. After she turned to look forward again, she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. I could sense the steely resolve which helped her survive the death of her husband.

With each passing moment, I battled the rising panic within. What am I doing? I wondered. I should be following Orpah, not contemplating leaving behind almost all the identity markers I owned in order to journey with Naomi back to Bethlehem. 

Naomi was obviously thinking the same thing, because suddenly she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. Follow your sister-in-law.”

I searched Naomi’s face. Lines which hadn’t been there years ago now deeply etched her skin. Crows’ feet around her eyes testified to joy that once filled her life. Now bitterness marked every aspect of her countenance. (Ruth 1:20)

I really should follow Orpah, I thought. Following Naomi only promised more bitterness, trials, agony, and rejection. Who knows how I would be treated in Bethlehem; after all, I was the widowed foreigner whose deceased husband had disobeyed every religious law by marrying me. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4) Naomi told us as much after Mahlon died. Oh yes, following Naomi almost guaranteed heartache, even more so than navigating life as a widow in my own land. 

And yet. 

Something drew me to follow Naomi. Maybe it was remembering the light in her eyes when she used to talk of home. Now, as her feet turned, something deep seemed to be fueling her onward. It was just a hint, but it lived, spurring her momentum: faith. Naomi’s bitterness was practically tangible, her emptiness and pain eked from every pore of her aging skin, but when she talked about the Lord, faith still tinged her words and the slightest spark of hope filled her countenance with determination. The Lord had His hand against her, but she was confident it was the Lord’s hand, not a vengeful enemy’s. (Ruth 1:20) She was His.

Faith & Hope.

If Naomi could believe her God provided food to her people who had been starving in the midst of a famine, why couldn’t I? Not one of my gods had ever done anything for me. They neither saved my husband nor spared any of us from all the pain we experienced. But this God in Bethlehem, He hears the cries of His people and responds. I’d rather be widowed with Him than be widowed apart from Him. 

I wanted a faith that could produce tenacious hope like Naomi’s. 

“Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me and do so severely if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Naomi stared at me. Her eyes tightened, and she tilted her head slightly. We stood there for quite some time, eyes locked in silent communication as she assessed my words and I intensely challenged her to say no. 

In the end, she said nothing at all. She simply pursed her lips, gave an almost imperceptible nod, and started traveling towards Bethlehem again. In fact, she spoke not a word until we finally laid eyes on Bethlehem. 

Our return shocked the city and led to a series of events which, quite literally, only the Lord could have orchestrated.

My view has changed immensely since the day I watched Orpah leave. Today, Naomi holds my infant son, Obed, in her arms. (Ruth 4:13-16) Renewed joy fills her face and Obed’s coos catch my heart. I move to stand next to my husband, Boaz, as he watches the interaction between them. He wraps his arm around me, and I rest my head on his shoulder as we watch the effects of tenacious faith in a God who relentlessly loves His people unfold around us.

The Lord provided far more than food upon our return to Bethlehem. He gave me physical and financial provision, love, and legacy. Above all, He has proven Himself to be faithful and true, worthy of my following.

In fact, He poured out the very thing which drew me to follow Naomi in the first place; He grew my faith, which birthed hope in me, as He moved me from widowed to royalty.

Perfectionistic to Grace-filled
a cardboard testimony from the author

When I, Sara, first arrived at college, I had no idea how much I struggled with perfectionism or how the next few years would be a journey of being set free from that prison. The Lord walked with me through hard circumstances and potential failures, proving He is enough and failure cannot define me because He already has. Grace filled my life. Just as the Lord was faithful to move Ruth, so He moved me from perfectionistic to grace-filled. 

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