Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Bitter Story Redeemed

So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the LORD enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son.  Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel.  May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”  Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own.  The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.  (Ruth 4:13-17, NLT)

I’ll admit that I’m becoming increasingly fascinated with story.  And the aspect I seem to be focusing on is the redemption of what Donald Miller terms “negative turns” in stories.  All our life stories have them.  They play a crucial role in how we develop and how we view our own lives.  They play an even more crucial role in the development of how we see God in perspective to our story’s part in His Bigger Story.  So, this week’s offering comes from the negative turns that make up the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth.

The story is so familiar.  Family experiences famine, moves out of town, boys meet girls, boys marry girls, and all the men die before any children/grandchildren are born which leaves the women in the story alone and more than a little frustrated.  Skipping ahead past the part where one daughter-in-law leaves and one stays, we find two widows returning to Bethlehem without much to live on.  Talk about your major negative turns.  It is so negative, in fact, that Naomi tells everybody not to call her by her given name but to call her “bitter” instead.  She reckons that since God has dealt in this fashion with her and she will wear that name.  

Oddly enough, she doesn’t act like the classic “bitter person” so many associate with the word.  Far from it as she digs in, teaches the “ropes” to her fellow widow and daughter-in-law Ruth, and doesn’t seem to sulk about what has gone on.  Certainly the negative turn in her life has had its impact, but it hasn’t derailed her.  She coaches Ruth on how to exist, relying on the generosity of others during harvest, and the two find out that Ruth has been working on the edges of a field of a not-too-distant cousin of the family.  Fast forward again past the symbolic ritual that shows honor and integrity by all parties involved, the shrewd dealings of Boaz with a certain legal transaction, and a marriage.  The couple is presented with a son and we are introduced to King David’s grandfather.

At the end of our pageant, we find the women of the neighborhood (who apparently didn’t bother calling Naomi “bitter”) rejoicing with the new grandmother.  Her negative turns, those that left her without a husband and sons, have been redeemed by God in spectacular form.  As the curtain falls and the credits roll, we see her sitting in her rocking chair, happily bouncing baby Obed on her lap.  Her joy has been restored and, I’d wager, her faith in God’s ability to do just that never wavered.

The Crooked Path will present me with many opportunities to trust Him with my story.  He has promised to redeem even the most negative turn I might experience, though He will do it in a way that glorifies Him and that I may not completely understand.  Acknowledging the negative turn happened is a given, but I hope I can approach it all like Naomi did - with complete honesty and perseverance to know that God still has me in His mind.  Redemption is in sight if I take the long view and I don’t need to live in a bitter state.

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