Tag Archives: vulnerability

Ruth :: Authentic


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

The way we react to the circumstances in our lives reveals truths about our character in ways we don’t fully understand. I tend to get really angry when things are out of my control. Mostly it is that seething, under the surface, she is way too quiet kind of anger, but when life is really stressful, I can get mean angry. Short. Unkind. Snarky. Boy do I use a snarky retort as a weapon sometimes. What I am less quick to do in stressful, uncontrollable situations is trust that God is working through the mess to his own glory. And my benefit. Then I feel pretty stupid. And sorry. And guilty.

I don’t love admitting that, but it definitely reveals my struggle with control. Ruth did not have this problem. Her reactions reveal a strength of character worth both admiring and emulating. 

Life Happens

So here’s the deal (Ruth 1: 1-10). Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion are from the town Bethlehem. Yeah, it’s the same place you’ve probably heard of with a manger and a stable and a pretty famous baby. Only this is like way before that baby’s birthday and there was a famine in Bethlehem, so Elimelech takes his family and moves to Moab. They live here for 10 years and LIFE HAPPENS.  First a funeral, Elimelech dies. Then a couple of weddings. Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah. And then, a couple more funerals. Just as soon as we find out the two sons are married, they’re suddenly gone. What we don’t hear of during this 10 years is any birth announcements. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah utterly alone. A stranger in a strange land, Naomi has a choice: stay or go. And so she decides to go. Packing her bags and her daughters-in-law they head back to Bethlehem.

 On the road, Naomi gets real (Ruth 1: 11-14. She shows them their future. Now Ruth and Orpah have a decision to make: stay orgo.

Three women. One choice.

Evidence that the decisions we make now can shape the future we will have. Ultimately what it comes down to—do we want to trust God and  follow Him despite the unknowns? Or do we give into our fears and insecurities?

But God

By Ruth 1:15-22 the two  women arrive in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest. They’ve both experienced a great deal of loss and trauma, but are handling it in very different ways.

Naomi has fled home seeking comfort in the familiar. Basking in self-pity, she renames herself Mara (bitter one) and even her attempt to send her daughters-in-law home is a way for her to wallow in mental self-flagellation as she wastes away into obscurity. Her own private punishment.

Ruth is a radical. Though she is now the stranger in the strange land and her situation is as hopeless—or more so—than Naomi’s, she takes a RISK and TRUSTS the Hebrew God, a God she couldn’t have known for more than a few years at bestbut for whom she is willing to sacrifice everything. Even, perhaps, her life.

Ruth followed Naomi out of faith, love and trust. 

  • Faith in God. 
  • Love her Naomi and her late husband.
  • Trust that no matter what life throws at you, God will have your back. 

Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

Reaping what you Sow

I don’t believe in coincidence. Ruth made a tough decision that changed her entire life. Actually, it made her a legend. Ruth saw a problem, she came up with a solution, she sought the guidance of her authority, and she executed a well-thought-out, albeit risky plan.

Consider the harvesting process. Each of these steps is crucial in Ruth’s story (Ruth 2:1-13)

  • Ripened standing grain is cut by men with hand sickles. 
  • Grain is bound by men and women into sheaves.
  • Stalks of grain left behind were gathered, a process known as gleaning. HOWEVER, the gleanings were specifically to be left for the poor and widowed (Leviticus 23:22).

Ruth knows the risk of working in a field, isolated and vulnerable, with so many working-class men. She’s a beautiful young widow–a foreigner seen as a second-class citizen. Unwanted advances and even rape would have been possible in this position. Yes, the gleanings were  meant to help the widows and poor survive in a harsh patriarchal society, but men do not always follow the rules of God and so risk was inevitable. Fortunately, God was there with her every step of the way. 

  • The sheaves were transported to the threshing floor. 
  • Grain was loosened from the straw, a process called threshing, by the treading of cattle or toothed threshing sledges
  • The grain was tossed into the air with winnowing forks so that the wind, which was stronger in the afternoons, would blow away the straw and chaff leaving the grain at the winnower’s feet. 
  • The grain is sifted to remove foreign matter.
  • The grain is bagged for transportation and storage.

Only with great risk can you achieve great reward.  In Ruth 3: 1-13 Naomi sees an opportunity for redemption. Ruthobeys—without question. But the plan is not without great risk. In fact, it is a radical move. Placing herself in this position with a man—any man—makes Ruth incredibly vulnerable (verse 7).

Boaz’s reaction reveals his own character as well. Instead of taking advantage of this woman in this vulnerable, brazen position, he immediately begins thinking about how to protect her reputation and even how he can protect her. He’s humble, but strong. He’s a real man. In the novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck describes one character, Slim, in this way: 


Photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash

“A tall man stood in the doorway. He held a crushed Stetson hat under his arm while he combed his long, black, damp hair straight back. Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket. When he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty achieved only by royalty and master craftsmen. […] There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. […] His hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-five or fifty. His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer (17-18).

Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

To me, this can also describe Boaz, his character and his position in this narrative and with Ruth herself. 

Which is then amplified in Ruth 4:1-12. The morning after Ruth’s radical proposal (a modern woman?), Boaz acts both honorably and without delay. Proving yet again that God is always in control.

Trust God and do the Next Thing. 

Much in our lives seem out of our control, unfair or unclear. Ruth can relate, and yet instead of becoming bitter like Naomi, or angry like me, Ruth trusted God, even when the path led somewhere seemingly hopeless. As a result,  she was blessed beyond her wildest dreams. How do we learn to trust God and walk in his path even when life is hard? We practice. We look for ways to trust and lean on God rather than ourselves. We remind oursleves daily who is in control and we embrace opportunities to learn more about his power, grace, and mercy even when life gets tough.

Great risk often yields great rewards, but also could result in greater pain, but it is the only way we will reap the rewards he intends for us. And boy does he plan greatness, if only we will embrace it.


Moving into the New

Can I just be a little vulnerable here for a minute? I’m really not too good at this, so bear with me.

I have always viewed my mind a little like a filing cabinet. I’ve been really good, most of my life, at compartmentalizing. This part of my life goes in this nice, tidy little box (it’s me, of course, it is nice, tide, color coded, and labeled). And that part of my life goes in this box. Home, School, Work, Church, Friends, Family–each in its tidy little place. For that matter, I have file folders and dividers for each part of my life. All carefully and prudently cataloged.

Yes, I am aware that might sound insane, but that is what my mind has always looked like. It’s how I function. To respond to someone, I have to dig through to the right file, so it takes me a little longer to process than the average person. And sometimes, it drives people around me insane. Sorry…well, not really. It’s who I am.

Lately, though…and this is where my heart moves to my sleeve now, people….my filing cabinets are in disarray! Especially things I thought I had carefully filed and archived, they’re on the floor of my nicely ordered mind and, to be frank, it’s a hot mess. I went out to dinner the other night with some really great friends and just burst into tears–twice. These friends are amazing and made me feel loved and not like a total geek for having a slight break down. If you don’t have friends like these, you are seriously missing out. The point, however, is my nicely controlled world has turned into chaos.

But you’d never know it just by looking at me. On the surface, I’ve got it figured out. I’m pretty put together and I really own my…quirkiness.

Yeah, I do. I own who I am, but I do not have it all figured out. Bless! I doubt I ever will, and that’s okay, but it got me thinking about a lot of different things. How people present themselves to the world, but their minds are still a mystery. God knows us, but sometimes, we hold out our hand and say, “Hey God, I know this is a mess, but you don’t need to worry about me; I’ve got this” and we frantically try to gather up our loose ends and stuff them back in filing cabinets or…shudder…under beds and in closets. If you can’t see it, then it ceases to exist. Right?

God’s standing there like, “Really, dude? You’re going to try to clean this all up yourself?”

And we do. Or we don’t. Either way, it’s still a mess.

And then, I had this really cool experience during GraceLife’s week of prayer and fasting this year.

When we started, I wasn’t really sure what I was praying and fasting for. I felt compelled to do so, but I didn’t really know why. Maybe it was peer pressure. Maybe it was guilt. But definitely, it was God. I spent most of the week praying for others and that was great! I really got out of that mess in my mind and focused on others’ and their needs. On the last day, I read Isaiah 43 as a part of my daily reading plan. Really, there was nothing special for me while I was reading, but then I started praying—it was a very specific prayer for something I want. Something that kind of is responsible for that mess in my mind (but only kind of). And then, I heard it. A whisper from God. 

For I am about to do something new.

New is good…but maybe a little earth shattering. Okay. Very earth shattering and new definitely screws with my nice little filing cabinets. A few years ago, I thought I really hated change and new, but then I came to the stark realization that I NEED change and new in my life. It disorganizes me and forces me to grow. Yeah, it’s painful (sometimes excruciatingly so), but I need it. So this whisper was not unwelcome, but it was surprising, especially when He continued with:

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it, dummy? 

I know what you are thinking. God did NOT call you a dummy. Well, actually I swear that’s what I heard–but it wasn’t insulting it was just kind of a push on the shoulder with a sly little smile. And maybe a wink. And that image of papers fluttering to the floor around my filing cabinets burned itself to the back side of my retinas. Like it all had to be laid out on the floor for me to see and wade through with HIM before I could truly see what He was doing for me and in me.

Whoa. And then he finished with: 

And then he finished with:

I will make a pathway through the wilderness [or, rather, chaos]. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

A few more papers might have shot from filing cabinets with those last few words. And there I stood, watching them flutter to the floor at my feet.

But instead of frantically trying to gather them all to me, I am now sighing.

And crying.

And healing.

It’s beautiful. It’s painful. It’s a mess. And I don’t really understand it at all (hey, I’m smart, but I’m kind a dummy sometimes too…I hope that doesn’t offend anyone; I’m just being honest).

Fortunately, I don’t need to understand it all right away, I just need to keep moving forward. With Him. Into something NEW.

Because He makes all things new.

Even you.

 

Get Naked: Psalm 32-33

In America we thrive on choice.

We have the right to choose what clothes to wear, where to go to school, who to date, who not to date, and even what laundry detergent to use. But when it comes down to making the choice to live life intentionally and without secrets. To live a full and abundant life. To live the way we were actually created to live, we tend to make some pretty terrible choices.

Living in darkness seems easier.

I’ve been watching Netflix for three hours. The sun has gone down. It’s easier to sit in the dark than to walk less than three feet to the light.

But it’s this darkness that enslaves us. We hide out, burying hurts, sins, and shames in the dark places of our hearts.

Because it seems easier.

But is it?

Our God, our father, Abba, Love itself, knows what we’ve done already, so what do we really gain by trying to hide out? Let’s go back to the garden of Eden for a minute–that first sin; Eve and Adam were told what not to do, so of course being rebellious humans they did exactly that. But instead of confessing to one another and to God what they had done was wrong, they tried to hide it. Genesis 3:8 says that they heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day so they hid among the trees. Of course this was after they’d tried to hide themselves with fig leaves in Genesis 3:7. Which is exactly how we try to hide and cover things up. We start with the surface. We paste a wooden smile on our face and when someone asks ‘how are you’? Our first response is always the same.

Fine.

No matter how NOT fine you are. You’re fine.

Maybe your best friend has just betrayed you. Maybe your dog is sick and you worry about her. Maybe your family is falling apart.

And still, you’re fine.

Because you’ve covered yourself with fig leaves.

I am the worst at this. For some reason when people ask me how I am I want to immediately say fine, even when I am far from fine. Partly to hide. Partly because I hate being the center of attention and partly because I feel so incredibly weak when I admit that I can’t handle things on my own. Right now, I’m dealing with about 5 different stressful situations all coming from different directions: work, family, personal, financial, etc. Some days I really am fine. Some days I’m not. But when anyone asks, I don’t really want to talk to them. It feels like a burden to share these things with people. But I’ve learned, especially in the past few weeks that sharing things with people, communicating, is really the only way to make it through certain situations. Because when you don’t have someone to weather the storm with, you get beat to a pulp. And getting struck by lightening is just really not great. I’ve got the split ends to prove it.

No one wants to be naked in front of others. There is a vulnerability that comes from that kind of exposure.

And so, you’re fine.

But most of us won’t just stop with surface hiding. We go deeper. We hide among the trees, especially if something in our life is not quite up to what our community might deem as ‘right’ or ‘good’. So when a friend comes walking toward us, in the cool of the day when we are supposed to be relaxing, maybe with a glass of wine on the back porch. Instead of listening to the cicadas, we recoil and hide. We miss opportunities to connect with people and feel love because we are hiding.

Our sin, our shame grows heavy. Our isolation may grow familiar, but it chokes us. It saps our strength. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,” Psalm 32:3-4 laments. And if you’ve spent even five minutes in South Carolina during the summer…you know how quickly your strength can be sapped in the humid heat of summer. And we CHOOSE to live our life in this depleted state, all because we are too proud to admit that we need help.

That we need people.

That we need God.

Because unfortunately our lives have deadlines. So we can live in this eternal state of isolation and pain or we can set ourselves free as the Psalm suggests in 35:6: “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when might waters rise they will not reach him.” Being with others, being with God offers protection and provides a place to hide and rest–: “for YOU are my hiding place!”

Darkness seems easier, but it’s exhausting. When things come into the light, that’s where true healing comes from. We choose God, but he also chooses us. And there is really no better choice to make than that.


“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance,” Psalm 33:12.


l-472872