Read His Words Before Ours!
Murmurs whispered swiftly through the small town, carried by dusty, sandaled feet. A sudden sense of excitement and curiosity pulsed through Bethlehem as two women approached. Questions swirled among small clusters of residents as all peered intently at the two figures.
The older woman walked with an authority that conveyed she knew the town well, and as excitement grew, a woman nearby exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” The elder woman stopped suddenly, and electricity charged the air as all within earshot waited for her reply.
“Don’t call me Naomi.” She bit the words off as if they were a weapon. “Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me bitter.” The younger woman walking beside her slipped a comforting arm around her tense shoulders, but she stiffened and continued. “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
When Naomi left her hometown as a younger woman, she was in a far different season of life. Life in her new home of Moab was good. There were hardships, sure. It was a time of famine, after all. But for the most part, her life was pleasant. Which was fitting; the name “Naomi” means “pleasantness.” Her life was following the natural order.
Marry a good, upstanding Jewish man. Check.
Build a family together and continue the lineage. Check, check.
Her list could have been mine. Or yours too, maybe?
Elimelech died. Her person. The one with whom she built a life. The one she cleaved to, having left behind her family and friends. Gone.
Every plan for the future, every marital hope, every daydream glimpse of her beloved as a gray-haired grandfather, telling stories to delighted little ones. Vanished. Gone forever, like a wisp in the desert air. As a widow, she found herself facing an unknown future, alone.
Her sons married, and years passed.
It’s likely she began to look forward with expectancy as she waited for news of grandchildren. Scripture doesn’t say if those ten years were hard or soft, but sudden loss came to call on Naomi again with the death of not one, but both, of her sons.
Another defining facet of her identity, marred forever. Stripped of the treasured roles which defined a woman’s value, she grieved both those she loved and her cultural purpose. Wounds of loss and disappointment were raw and gaping for a time, but eventually, they began to harden.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and Ruth insisted on joining her.
Scripture doesn’t describe the scene of Naomi’s return in quite the detail my imagination paints, but it isn’t difficult to picture, is it?
By the time Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, Naomi’s heart posture was apparent. The grief and loss she had endured were not submitted to the Lord, but were instead allowed to harden into bitterness. By telling the women in Bethlehem to call her “Mara,” she drew a clear parallel between herself and the Israelites’ experience wandering through the wilderness with only bitter water to drink.
Anger, frustration, self-pity. Bitterness.
I imagine as they approached Bethlehem, her mind was flooded with memories of the day she and Elimilech left, and the sorrow of that initial separation. The naive, wistful thoughts about returning together in the future, perhaps with a few mischievous grandchildren in tow. Instead, she returned with her son’s widow, carrying a burden of grief and sorrow.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Oh, Naomi. I’ve been there. The words feel familiar, because they are familiar. They’ve split through my hurting heart more than once.
And maybe yours, too, Sister?
Have you let your own plans, or the experiences in your life, define you?
Have you let them fill you?
Just like Naomi, we can all reflect on times we have sought what only God can give
us from our
political party, or
But dear friend.
If we are filled and defined by what we want, or by our relationships or experiences, how are we any different from the rest of the world? Do any of those things fill us with light or God’s truth?
More importantly, if we are full of those things, how can He fill us with what He desires?
The truth of what happens when we allow ourselves to be filled by anything but our God is illustrated by Naomi’s response to the pressure and loss in her life. She allowed herself to be filled by something other than the Lord, so when those people and relationships were no longer in her life, she was empty. The wounds of loss allowed her hard heart to spill out when she publicly blamed Him for all she endured.
She missed the comfort the Lord provided her in Ruth, but she also missed the opportunity to share with the townspeople about the comfort, peace, joy, and fruitfulness the Lord provides in hard seasons.
And friend? We are in danger of the same. When we allow ourselves to be filled by anything but God, we are missing the blessing He longs to extend to us in both the famine and the plenty.
Lord, You are the author and creator of life. Your plans are far above any I could devise. I confess my desire and need for control, and I choose to repent today. Heal the places in me that need a touch from You, and teach me how to walk in Your way. All I have is Yours. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!