Is there anyone here not familiar with the story of Ruth? So often cited in Christian circles as justification why women can make the first move, we look at her story with profound interest. I’ve always been intrigued by the lives of the women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus and every time, I find myself thoroughly enjoying the way they were, in their own ways, rather scandalous.
Every year starting December 1, I re-visit the stories of the people part of Jesus’ ancestry and so once again dwelled on the story of Ruth. I thought of her as scandalous in the sense that she went and “made the first move”, which I figured was acceptable in their context and culture, but I came to see that things went much deeper than that.
The overarching theme of Ruth was Naomi’s bitterness turning into joy as she saw God redeem her and her family. Ruth’s story is that of an outsider being taken in and shown love and mercy. It’s much more of a testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness than anything else.
Don’t we all want our love stories to look like that? Here’s how Ruth got it right.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Upon closer inspection, we could see that Ruth was anything but the take-control, aggressive woman we made her out to be. All throughout her book, we could only see one thing she was determined about: going where Naomi would go. In fact, it was when she was eligible to get married to younger, richer men that she decided to leave everything behind and follow wherever the Lord, through Naomi, would lead her and call her to. She basically gave up her right to live her life the way she wanted to.
Forgive me for saying this, but we have become a culture so obsessed with self. Instead of looking at our singlehood as an opportunity to serve, we see it as a time to focus on self.
I’m not saying that self-development and discovery is wrong in any way, but while we’re busy bemoaning our relationship status, complaining about the lack of available men, and scrolling through social media sites, children out there are dying of starvation, women are being sold and prostituted, and families are broken apart by sickness and poverty. We are present at every singles get-together and retreat, yet we wouldn’t even sacrifice a couple of hours to be of service to other people.
And then we have Ruth, who laid all of her to serve the person entrusted to her.
She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” She gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.
–Ruth 2:7, 17-18
From the very beginning, her intention and her service was for her mother-in-law. Every decision that she made from the time her husband died was not to her own advantage. In fact, she basically shunned the thought of marriage and prioritized working and providing for Naomi. Her desire was not for herself. Naomi then had to be the one to convince her to get back in the game again.
And even then Ruth in her humility responded,
“All that you say I will do” (Ruth 3:5).
I think one thing a lot of us overlook is that when Ruth approached Boaz, she didn’t do so because he was the one she desired or because he paid attention to her. She did so because he was her kinsman and culturally, one of the few people who can redeem her family lineage and legacy. She did not do so out of her own volition, she did so out of submission.
Her act of going to Boaz did not speak “I like you Boaz so please marry me” as most of us would interpret it. What she was truly saying was, “In order to redeem the family name of Naomi, I am willing to be a living sacrifice and thus offer myself as your wife.”
Ladies, let’s be completely honest here. We all want to be in a relationship, but how many of us are ready to offer ourselves like that? And if we wouldn’t even let God refine our hearts to get to that point, then why bother magnifying your desire for a guy in the first place?
At one point or another, you have probably come across a Jim/Elisabeth Elliot quote, but I love this one certain line from a letter before they got married:
“Let not our longing slay our appetite for living.”
We’re all always longing for something. Love. Relationships. Family. Peace. Provision. Security. Health. Beauty. Purpose. We’re all longing – each and every one of us. Yet all of these must not in any way hinder us from living; from embracing and thriving where we are now, with what we have now.
I’ve talked to countless women who said they were praying to end up with a godly guy, only to find out 5 sentences later that they’re doing so in the throng of bars, speed-dating, and matchmaking sites. I’ve had single women older than me come up to me and ask me to write about how we live in a generation where men are afraid of commitment and pursuit, more so than any other generation before.
And I’m not going to deny the statistics. The trend goes far beyond the romance department. Working for the ministry, high on the list of our greatest, most pressing needs are male missionaries who would be willing to go places and spearhead certain pursuits. We have a huge pool of women volunteering themselves to go to the most dangerous of places because there is such a lack of men willing to rise up. (While I would love to discuss that in length, this isn’t quite the place or post to do so).
Either way, I believe that this does not at all hinder God’s stories for His children. Our frustration does not in any way give us the right to grab the pen from God’s hands and try to overwrite what He has already spoken. The fact that the cute office-mate you have is brave enough to pursue you does not change the fact that he’s not a follower of Christ. You being convinced that it’s your season to be in a relationship does not mean that you’re right.
If God wanted you married by now, then He would have found a way to bring a man into your life by now. It would certainly entail obedience from both sides, but He is more than capable of using the most unlikely of circumstances to, at the very least, get things moving. He managed to bring Eve to Adam when Adam didn’t even know someone like her existed after all.
The thing about the book of Ruth was that there was no angel visitation or apparent supernatural manifestation but her seemingly ordinary life was marked with divine orchestration – all started by her humble act of submission and catapulted by her obedience. Ruth did not just happen to end up in Boaz’s field, where he took notice of her, and it was no coincidence that he was her kinsman redeemer. It was all God, moving behind the scenes all along.
God writes the best stories, but only if you allow Him to hold the pen.
So if you really want to pattern out the way you approach your love life according to Ruth, then here’s how you can start:
Yield. Surrender. Obey.