Seeing as we’re in the middle of a six week series on identity, it’s been something that’s dominated my thoughts.
A lot of people can poke fun at my love for the book of Ruth, but the reality is simply that God always speaks to me through those scriptures. I don’t know if it’s the style it’s written in or the story itself, but it’s one of those “never fails to speak to me” books.
So with that, I naturally learned a little something about identity by looking at Ruth’s life.
1. She had a story for every major influence
In this series, we have already looked at how major events, culture, and our caregivers shape our lives. Hello! Have you read Ruth? This girl can check off every one of those! The book opens with her husband dying (pretty major event) and Ruth moving to a new country. It just so happens that Ruth the Moabite (labeled that way several times throughout the book) would not exactly have been thought of as the most ideal woman in Bethlehem (Check out the major cultural attitudes the Israelites had concerning the Moabites). Furthermore, even after Ruth declares her devotion for her, Ruth’s mother-in-law actually says to the people in Bethlehem, “Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty.” Wow. Even after a moving display of devotion, Ruth wasn’t enough for Naomi. Do you think these things probably affected Ruth’s identity?
2. She didn’t belong in those fields!
I’m sure I lost a few of you already, but try to stick with me here. Did I mention that all of those things that affected Ruth’s identity happened in chapter one of the book? Chapter two opens with Ruth out in the field trying to find enough barley for her and her mother-in-law to live off of. The reality is, Ruth didn’t belong there. She was a foreigner and didn’t really belong in Bethlehem. Plus, gleaning in the field after the harvesters was something that was reserved for the poorest of the poor. You know that while she was working in that field, she must have thought about her husband. It probably occurred to her more than once, that if he was around, she wouldn’t have to do this. There must have been another option.
I feel like this often. When it comes to the struggle with identity, I know I’m not supposed to be out in the field. I know there must be a better option. In fact, I know that the better option is a life lived rooted in Christ. But just like Ruth, I often can’t see past the field. All I know is that I’m not supposed to be here.
3. She was redeemed
It turns out there was a better option. Long story short, there’s this guy named Boaz who redeems Ruth. (Hello Old Testament metaphor for Jesus!) He marries her and thus ensures that she and Naomi are taken care of. There are some really beautiful moments between Boaz and Ruth. She just can’t seem to understand why he would show her favor. He doesn’t treat her like a scandalous foreigner, in fact, he goes out of his way to show her kindness. Suddenly, Ruth is no longer labeled as “Ruth the Moabite.” Instead, after she gives birth to a son, the women of the village tell Naomi that Ruth “loves her and is more valuable than seven sons.” (Just trust me and know that that was a big deal!)
I’m actually not too far gone when I say that Jesus does the same thing for us. Boaz is meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ. Christ redeemed us by going to the cross. Also in the same way as Ruth, we are no longer labeled as foreigners or Moabites, but 1 John 3:1 says that we are children of God!
We don’t belong in the fields of our despair. We know that Christ came to bring life. Will we accept it? It would have been easy for Ruth to shrug off Boaz’s attention towards her. It would have been easy for her to stay in that field and deny his love for her. It’s also really for us to stay in the field of our identity crisis, wishing “this person would affirm us” or “this event would make us feel like we made it,” the list could go on and on. I don’t know about you, but I know that that stupid field only makes me hurt more. There’s no life there! Stop picking up the leftover pieces of God’s love and accept his full on, 100%, scripture proved affection for you.