There is a mysterious time lapse in the story of Naomi and Ruth, which leaves me with more questions than answers. While Naomi was in the forbidden idol worshipping land of Moab, something fascinating and powerful happened during her time of grief and despair.
One day while Naomi was living in Bethlehem, her husband Elimelech declared: “Naomi, there is a famine in this land and we are taking our two boys Mahlon and Kilion and moving to Moab.” Can you imagine how you would feel if one morning, out of the blue, your husband told you to pack up because you were moving to Syria. Everything would be poles apart to your familiar normal.
But move they did. Then God forbid, while they lived in Moab, Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. Then their two sons, who had married Moabite women, also died. Alas, now Naomi was in a foreign country, alone with her two daughters-in-love Ruth and Orpha who spoke a different language, and dressed, ate and worshipped contrary to what Naomi was accustomed to. But the worst part was that during that time in history, there was nothing worse than being a widow. They were ignored, taken advantage of and poverty stricken. To me is all seems quite hopeless.
Naomi hears the famine is over in her hometown of Bethlehem and decides to return. She heads out with her two daughters-in-love and they hadn’t gotten far when Naomi urges them to back to their mother’s home in Moab. Orpha kissed her, mother-in-law, said good-bye and left.
But Ruth cried out:
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)
What happened during this silent, mysterious time frame of the history of three widows that caused Ruth to cry out to Naomi: “Your God will be my God?” I don’t imagine that Naomi, the widow, saw herself as a leader, but she modeled something good and strong during her time of despair in the land of Moab. Her God must have given her unusual strength, wisdom and grace to withstand her tremendous grief, culture shock and foreign habits. I can only surmise that it was so unusual and beautiful that one woman was willing to follow Naomi’s powerful God.
As a leader, and a widow, I am very aware of the intensity of this story. Would Ruth have followed me and taken on my culture and the beliefs of my personal relationship with God? I hope so but I’m not sure. But this I know. During our greatest pain or grief, we can get down trodden and bitter, or we can become like Ruth, mysteriously strong through trusting and believing God for a better future. Obviously people are watching what are we modelling. As a leader I have to ask myself: Is my relationship with God so beautiful and real that people will want to follow Him? That someone will say: “I want your God to be my God.”