#AffirmationMonday presents "Women Who Rock the Bible (Part 1): Ruth"
But Ruth replied, '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, HCSB
March 2020 is Women's History Month. According to Wikipedia, "Women's History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society." To be honest with you, although I AM a woman, I forget about this 'holiday' every year (I'm still fresh off of Christmas and New Year's). But as I was reading up on the celebration, and why we choose to honor women during this time, I didn't want to let the month pass by without contributing my ode to it. It's one thing to know the contributions that women have made to this society. It's another thing to actually acknowledge them.
For the month of March, we're going to be using our #AffirmationMonday blog post to talk about four women of the Bible that overcame challenging circumstances to be used by God. These were women who didn't fit the cultural norm, but who chose to buck the 'system' and do what they knew God was calling them to do. This brings me to a side note: sometimes God is going to call you to do something that seems foolish and that breaks with tradition. Your co-workers won't understand you. Your friends will disown you. Your family will swear you've went crazy. But if you've prayed about it, read about it, and fasted about it, and you still think God has you going down that path, then you walk it with your head held high. He's going to bless you so that you can live and be a blessing to others.
For this week, we're looking at the story of Ruth. It's not a long chapter in the Bible, so I encourage you to read it while you're taking lunch or doing chores. It's the story of a woman, who, against her cultural norms, married a man of another heritage and faith, and eventually became woven into the lineage of Jesus Christ. Let's stop there: Ruth was a Moabite, a Gentile. She was not from Israel and did not grow up worshiping the God of Israel. How many of you have felt culturally out of place in something that's so clearly available to you? I'm not just talking about race, although it could include that. I'm talking about being a woman in a room full of men. I'm talking about growing up poor and going to an Ivy League school. I'm talking about being given the opportunity to break glass ceilings that women haven't even been able to reach in the past. Ruth was not an insider, and yet she married an Israelite. A famine brought Naomi, her husband and her two sons into this foreign land, and although Naomi's husband died early on, her son was able to build a life for 10 years with Ruth by his side. Eventually both of Naomi's sons died, and Ruth was left a widow. Naomi knew that Ruth could easily marry into another family so because that was the 'cultural norm' she urged her to go back to her people. But that would mean not only leaving Naomi, whom she cared for, but the God of Israel, whom she loved and worshiped. Naomi was leaving to go back to her home so Ruth made an unprecedented decision. She probably considered her future as a widow (which was bleak) and even considered what it would be like to live as an outcast in a foreign society and said this to Naomi: 'Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.' (Ruth 1:16, NIV) Ruth made a tough choice, stood the course, and was eventually blessed with a family, a child and a spot in history.
Might her life have been good if she stayed in Moab? Maybe. After all, Orpah, the wife of the other son, decided to go back to her home. The book doesn't talk about what happened to her. She might have married again, maybe even had children. She could have grown old with a full lineage of her own. But she missed God. She missed His plan for her life. She missed the greater thing. Jesus talks about this in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was busy prepping a big meal for Jesus and his disciples but Mary was intent on sitting at Jesus' feet. She was probably listening to Him talk and was so fascinated with what He was saying that she didn't get up to help her sister. Martha got upset and practically scolded Jesus for letting her do this. But Jesus said, "Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (v. 41-42, NIV)
The story of Ruth illustrates 4 major points:
1. We all have a choice. Choose better.
We can choose the easy way. We can choose the 'normal' way. We can even choose the productive way. But is that they right 'way'? Before you make a choice, pray. Seek advice from someone you trust. And don't expect that your path is going to be like that of someone else. You're different and that's fine. God made you special in your own right. Own it!
2. God's love calls us out of cultural norms and bias.
Just because your family has always done it this way doesn't mean that's the way God is going to call you to do it. Just because your cultural or socio-economic background dictates that things in your life should follow a certain path, doesn't mean that you're trapped in a box. Think outside of it! Allow God to transform your mind by bringing new hopes and dreams into your heart.
3. Things will get tough. Maybe even bleak. But that's okay.
If you're walking down the path you feel God has you on, things are going to get rocky. Jesus said that as His followers you will face trouble (John 16:33). But because He has overcome the world, we can trust that those hard times we're going through are growing pains as we walk in the destiny we've been called to. Keep pushing until you get your breakthrough.
4. God's way is better. Always.
After arriving with Naomi, Ruth had to work the fields to make sure they had food and provisions. As a matter of fact, she had to pick from the leftovers left in the field. Anyone who has had to try to scrap together a to-go plate after every one's ate and taken leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner knows this is next to impossible. But even through all of this, Ruth stayed the course. And she eventually ended up marrying the man who owned the field! It might not seem like it, but God's way is always better. Trust Him. Trust His timing. He knows what's best.
This Women's History Month, remember Ruth, who has taught us that God has a plan for all of us if we simply choose to follow Him with our whole heart. Have a "Ruth" story of your own? We'd love to hear about it! Comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Okay, here's the affirmation for the week.
Affirmation for the Week:
Regardless of what I see, God has a glorious plan for my life. I will trust Him.