What we can learn from Ruth’s story
How are you doing? How is life in this special time where Covid 19 is the main topic, influencing every aspect of society and personal life?
Soon we will get into Easter break which is a good thing: that means we can slow down with our homeschooling and invest more time into personal projects, which we are looking forward…
However, even with that in sight, facing so many changes and having to adapt to the multiple demands of our flexibility is pretty challenging.
As was studying the book of Ruth lately, I connected her story to our present times and I would like to share these thoughts with you.
Most of you are probably familiar with the story:
The Book opens with a family that went from Bethlehem to the land of Moab because of a famine.
But some time into their stay in Moab Noemi’s husband died, later the two sons died as well and the Wife, Naomi was left with nothing except her two daughters in law.
In those times, being a (elderly) widow was a hopeless place to be, as it is still so in some countries in this world today.
Therefore, she decided to go back to Bethlehem, to at least, survive. She sent both of her daughters in law away, “back to their people and to their gods”. But Ruth refused.
Reading on, I was impacted by the attitude of Ruth, and I would like to to show you why:
Ruth was a victim of the circumstances. Here she was, happily married to the man she loved and suddenly, he died – and her mother in law, her unique connection to this man decided to go back to her country. There must surely have been grief in her life. Not only had she to grieve the death of her husband, but as well the radical change of her future, their hopes and dreams. There was the longing for protection and belonging. We can imagine that fear and being overwhelmed by all this uncertainty of her life were part of her actual state.
Many of us can identify. We live in a radical change of our future plans. What about planned vacation? A long awaited wedding or a long awaited conference? What about the security of a stable income, foreseeability of what tomorrow will be?
Many of us literally had to die to something that was very much alive only a few weeks ago.
Others of you had loved ones who died unexpectedly in the last couple of weeks, leaving you with deep grief, pain, anger and many more emotions.
Ruth knows what this feels like.
However, she shows an amazing steadfastness in all of that, in fact, she told her mother in law:
“…Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried… ” (Ruth 1:16,17)
As the story goes on, we see her boldness and courage in midst of the reality that she now was
1. A foreigner;
2. a woman
3. a widow and therefore in a very vulnerable position in that culture.
In Ruth 2:2 we can read that Ruth said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.”
Later, in verses 7 and 17 we read that she has been gleaning from early morning until evening. And from that very first day on, she experienced the grace, favor and protection of Boaz, who happened to be the owner of the field she was gleaning in – and who also happened to be a close relative to the family of Noemi.
He had heard about her attitude. In fact, he tells her:
“I have been made fully aware of all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to a people unknown to you before. The Lord recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under Whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
I love that story! Not only does it show God’s faithfulness in midst of miserable circumstances, but a woman who, despite her grief, pain and fear makes some very good decisions. This, instead of falling into empathy and hopelessness, dwelling in her fears of the uncertainty that happens to be her situation because of her circumstances she had no power to change or even influence. She in fact finds a protector, an amazing, good man that takes care of her and loves her – and in long term becomes the grandmother of King David and ultimately Jesus descends from that family line!
How was Ruth, a young woman, who was still grieving the loss of her husband, able to act in such boldness and courage, integrity and faithfulness?
Some time ago I wrote an article around the subject of the circle of influence and the circle of concern, taken from the book on families from Stephen Covey. 1
Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern
By studying the book of Ruth, I could draw parallels and connect the dots between that story, our reality and this teaching:
In every one’s life, there is a part of life we are concerned about, but we can’t control: in this picture, that place is represented by the circle of concern.
In normal times I would first think
- about the weather,
- the sex life of celebrities and politicians,
- what Miss Sonandso writes on her personal blog,
- people driving bad on the road.
But today I think first of the effect this Corona Virus has on our lives. There are so many things we are concerned about, and many of them we have no control over whatsoever.
- The decisions the government takes,
- the way those decisions are implemented in our lives
- the way news are shown in the newspapers and television.
- The government’s decision on how to manage finances during this time.
- The quantity of toilet paper other people hoard.
- What people post on social media or what they believe about the whole situation.
- Whether others follow the rules of social distancing
- What their motives are.
- How long this whole situation will continue
- What consequences this will have on our economy
Even how many people died from that virus in Italy or New York.
The normal feelings following those “concerns” is overwhelmedness, being frustrated, angry, falling into sadness and even depression. It can be simply too much to handle!
Back to Ruth; I am sure she would never have had this courage and faithfulness if she would have spent her time being concerned and trying to control all the things she had no control over;
- The death of her husband
- The decisions of her mother in law
- The place of a widow in the society she lives in
- What others think about her
- Her future
She stood up in that circle of influence, and acted (not reacted!) based on what she had control over:
How she decided to deal with her painful reality
How she decided to leave “her gods and her people” and go with Naomi,
Her decision to go for hard gleaning work on the field
Later in that story we can observe her follow her mother in laws counsel and “propose” to Boaz, who was already an elderly man and in order to preserve the family line of Naomi who then became the great grandmother of King David! Her capacity to not crumble in front of all the things in the “circle of concern” and be a powerless victim turned her into that powerful lady of destiny, changing her story and the story of her mother in law.
Back to our reality:
If we dwell in that circle of Concern, we miss out the opportunity to take control over what we can control.
- The attitude I choose to have
- The time I chose to spend in God’s presence
- How much time I spend on social media
- The amount of news I watch
- The projects and fun things I choose to do during this time
- How I follow the social distancing rules
- The way I go shopping and the amount of toilet paper I hoard
- How I deal with my own emotions
- The way I act toward my spouse and children
- How I choose to use social media to encourage, strengthen and bless others through it
Like Ruth, you can choose to give the best in that circle of influence. You can’t change your circumstances. But you can choose your response to those circumstance and that will make all the difference.
Like it did with Ruth, this will make you bold, courageous in midst of your reality.
You can choose to give your best in what you have the choice over, in that very reality you are in. You can’t change your circumstance. But you can choose the response to your circumstance and that will make all the difference.
You will be able to walk in integrity, faithfulness and grace, something that is nearly impossible if you are overwhelmed by the emotions created by our attempt to influence the many things we simply have no power over.
And the good news in all of that is: Ruth chose the God of Israel, under whose wings you too can take refuge. (Ruth 2.12) He will never fail you, never forsaken you. He can handle all those things we are concerned about, that overwhelm us. He wants to guide and lead us, as it says in 1.Peter 5:10
“…Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.”
As I learn to walk in this circle of influence, casting all my worries on him, I experience his faithfulness, this growing peace and security, the way he strengthens and settles me, even in these challenging times of Covid 19!!