Some people can summarize their entire life’s story in one line. One thinks of Nixon saying, “I am not a crook,” or the hypochondriac who was buried under the tombstone, “See? I told you I was sick.” For Naomi, in the book of Ruth, the line is, “The Lord has turned his hand against me.” Imagine how hard it was for this woman to live with her own interpretation of events. This is one definition of insanity, when we believe our own internal messages, and those messages aren’t helpful.
When we seek to explain Ruth’s behavior, her leaving her home in Moab and going to Bethlehem, we tend to imagine Naomi to be a very lovable mother-in-law. There isn’t any biblical support for this rumor. My experience is that once a person believes that they are cursed, that is that God himself is out to ruin their lives, they tend to become difficult to live with. “It’s my cross to bear,” are not the words of a desirable traveling companion.
The only way to explain Ruth’s behavior is to suppose that both God’s prevenient grace led her to believe that Moab was not her true home. She also had her dead husband’s witness to his God and the role that the land of Israel played in that his faith journey. These thing caused her to choose to love Naomi and follower her to Israel. From time to time you run into people who are attending your church, not because they found the pastor a great preacher, but because they had a family member who in an authentic way witnessed to the faith and spoke about that particular congregation as the place where it could be nurtured.
That being said, we need to speak about God’s grace in a way that the Naomi’s among us can hear it. The Lord doesn’t turn his hand against us to shame us. The adversities we face are not punishments. From time to time, though, the Lord does allow circumstances to push us. We sense God calling us… or should I say, forcing us, to turn and go a new direction? To leave Moab and go up to Bethlehem, whether we be young like Ruth or old like Naomi.