Over the past few years I’ve cheered as many friends start new businesses, join ministries, or change careers now that their families are grown. Their new endeavors have spurred me to realize that I could make a big change as well. However, whenever I have considered a new beginning, I end up realizing that I really love what I do and the flexibility it affords me. At least for now, I’m where I need to be: just keeping on.
Although I have great peace and contentment, there are moments when I feel a bit…mundane. It usually happens after discussing a friend’s new adventure or success. There is often a long pause before she invariably asks, “How about you? Are you still teaching?” In those moments I feel a sort of guilt, something akin to what one feels when the TV screen goes black except for Netflix’s lightly-veiled accusation: “Are you still watching____?” The completely innocent question of my friend makes me wonder if maybe I should be doing more with my life.
Reading with a New Perspective
This was my frame of mind as I started re-reading the book of Ruth recently. Ruth is famous for being the great-grandmother of King David, and her story gives outsiders hope that even “cursed” people can come into the family of God. Not only that, but she is one of only two women whose names title a book of the Bible. However, here’s something I’ve never thought about before: As notable as she is, Ruth’s story would not have been possible apart from the lives of two other characters: Naomi and Boaz.
Naomi: More than a Bitter Woman
By the time we meet her in the book of Ruth, Naomi feels that the Lord has abandoned her, but she was more than just a bitter old woman. Look at her relationship with Ruth. Typically Israelites were commanded not to marry foreigners, and yet Naomi’s son did just that when he married Ruth. A foreign spouse could (and often did) turn an Israelite to false gods and away from true worship. In Ruth’s case, however, it was the other way around. This Moabitess turned to worship the God of her husband’s family. She chose true worship. Furthermore, since she opted to remain with her mother-in-law even after her husband’s death, I can’t help but wonder if it was something about Naomi that wooed Ruth to the God of Israel. Ruth undoubtedly witnessed something in Naomi’s life that prompted her to leave her homeland, promising her mother-in-law, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” It seems to me that even as Naomi was bubbling over in lament, she was a mentor and friend to Ruth.
Ruth: More than an Immigrant
In return, Ruth was a faithful disciple and loyal companion. No doubt from Naomi’s instruction, Ruth was familiar with the Israelite laws and customs. Knowing that as a widow and a foreigner she had the right to follow after harvesters and gather the grain they left behind, she woke every day and did the hard, physical work of providing for herself and Naomi. Because she was willing to humble herself, work hard, and trust God, Ruth met Boaz. Her work ethic and faithful devotion to Naomi won Boaz’s affections despite the fact that she was an impoverished foreigner. In faithfully living out Naomi’s teaching and actively trusting her God, Ruth ended up being instrumental in redeeming not only Naomi’s family, but all of humanity.
Boaz: More than an Eligible Bachelor
And let’s not forget Boaz. He was so much more than an eligible Israelite bachelor. The Scriptures say he was wealthy, but we see in his actions that he was also generous, humble, and faithful to the laws of Israel. He not only allowed gleaning in his fields as the law commanded, he instructed his workers to leave extra grain behind for those who needed it. Once he met Ruth, he could have used his position and power to exploit her, but instead he used it to protect her, forbidding the men who worked for him from harassing her in any way. Not only that, but acting as kinsman redeemer for Naomi by marrying Ruth came at a great personal cost to Boaz. Indeed, a closer relative gave up redeeming Naomi’s property because of risk to his own estate. In marrying Ruth, Boaz therefore must have faced a similar risk.
But he knew it was the right thing to do.
Ultimately, the lives of the three characters intertwined to result in something pretty monumental: the family line of the Messiah. Where would we be without them? But here’s what I have been realizing: Although all three could be considered heroes of the Bible, they probably didn’t feel very heroic as they were living out their days. In fact, if you read through the book of Ruth, you may notice that the Lord never once speaks to any of them. God never called them to a specific course of action. They were just living out their faith in mostly boring daily routines. They were simply following Yaweh without any idea what the Lord was working out behind the scenes. And they most likely never knew the part their mundane lives played in the redemption of mankind.
I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in realizing that one of my heroes had a rather humdrum existence. It awakens me to the truth that God is not only a God who speaks and brings about huge miracles by empowering His people to do amazing things. He’s also a God who works behind the scenes knitting together the mundane, invisible acts of His not-so-spectacular followers as they endeavor to seek Him and live faithfully.
Maybe, like me, you are in a season of life that feels drab or invisible. Whether you are an empty-nester leaving behind the season of raising kids, a single person working long hours to provide for yourself, a stay-at-home parent whose most heroic acts seem to be changing diapers and keeping “the littles” alive, or a working parent attempting to juggle the dual demands of work and family, take comfort in this: God sees you. He is at work even in your mundane, and you have no idea what miracles or movements He is weaving from your everyday boring acts of faithfulness.