But Ruth replied, “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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” – Ruth 1:16-17
Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Until I die. WHOA.
Easily the best known portion of the book of Ruth, as well as the inspiration for a very catchy Chris Tomlin tune, these verses speak to the beauty of deep, committed relationship in spite of diversity. They are a declaration of a woman who has lost everything, to another, saying “I’m in this. I’m with you.” Beautiful. Powerful. But also ABSO. LUTELY. CRAZY.
For anyone who has read the short book of Ruth, heard her story, or read the detailed genealogy that graces the first chapter of the book of Matthew, we know how Ruth’s story ends. Happily ever after as the great-great-great-grandsomething of our savior. But if you look at her life as she was living it, the water is much murkier, her story much more (potentially) hopeless than we can even imagine. Ruth’s story begins as a pagan, foreign wife of an Israelite, daughter-in-law to a woman from Bethlehem named Naomi. Naomi and her husband and two sons had left Judah because of a famine, and taken up residence in Moab, where they found their wives. Sometime in the course of the ten years they lived there, though, Naomi’s husband and both of her sons (one of them the husband of Ruth) all died, leaving the women with nothing. Women at that time were considered the property of their husbands, not able to own land or work in any traditional sense of the word. So where does this leave them? With nothing. No options. No means of providing for themselves. And no support system to fall back on. Not a great outlook.
That’s where these passages in Ruth lie. Just after her life has been devastated, her MIL is telling her to go back to her parents, where she can at least find someone to take her in. Instead, however, she makes this bold declaration: to stay with Naomi, to care for her, and to follow her God. Somewhere in the midst of all the darkness and uncertainty, Ruth felt a pull from the Lord to go wherever he would lead her. A foreigner. A widow. Now do you see why everyone probably thought she was crazy?
Sometimes the Lord calls us to do big things that seem crazy. His call can come in the form of a word of scripture, a nudge of prayer, a word of wisdom, or an unknown, internal inkling that becomes clearer with each moment of reflection. Listening to the call of the Lord, whether it is a big crazy leap or something very small, can lead to the most amazing things. God has our stories written long before our feet touch the ground on this planet (Jeremiah 1:5a, Jeremiah 29:11). He knows how it will all play out, for his goodness and glory, no matter how dark, or hopeless, or confusing it seems at the time, because he loves us (Romans 8:28). For Ruth, I imagine she never thought that through one decision, one declaration, her obedience in a time of devastation would have led to the birth of the one who would save us all. But she chose faithful obedience, even if it seemed a little crazy at the time, and it led to the glory of the God of the universe in an amazing and unexpected way.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the callings you place in our lives. Keep our hearts and minds open to your will and your word that we could hear from you. You are the creator of our stories and your plans are perfect. Give us the obedience to listen to your callings on our hearts and in our lives. Amen.
– Lindsey Jodst