Among all the stories told in the Old Testament, the story of Ruth is fairly unique in that God doesn't directly speak or act in anything that happens. His presence is assumed rather than explicit. I really appreciate this, because it makes this story feel so much like real life, the kind of life where people just muddle through and make decisions and take action, and things either happen or fail to happen, and then the next decision has to be made in light of that. That's what my life feels like, most of the time. I have never experienced the blessing (or terror) of having God open the heavens and speak to me audibly, giving me explicit instructions about what to do. But many, many times I have experienced things by apparent chance, and only when I look backwards over them can I see how everything fit together for my good.
So much of Ruth and Naomi's story is like that. They make decisions in response to serious hardships in their lives, and their path is shaped by those choices, bit by bit. There are great acts of heroism and kindness, but not in any flashy superhero kind of way. Ruth takes a lot of risks, but not for the sake of adventure. She does it because she has to, because it's how her life is shaped, because it's who she is. That's how real heroism works. That's how the world is really shaped, day by day.
Ruth's story gives me a lot of encouragement for my own day-by-day life and the ordinary choices that I make inside it. Some of those choices are actually big, hairy decisions, but they're the kind of big, hairy decisions everyone has to wrestle with: how to make a living, how to meet your needs, how to take care of the people who are important to you. Most of the story is about how two women are set adrift from what enables them to do that, and how they have to find a new way to a place of provision and security.
It's also about the quieter, more subtle and ongoing work of God -- not the epic moments when he sends angels with thundering messages of doom and glory, but the ways in which he constantly nudges very ordinary things into place. Ruth's story reminds me that God is here, whether or not he's visible, whether or not he speaks out loud. He's here in the words I'm writing, the thoughts I'm thinking, in both the little choices and the big hairy decisions I need to make next. God is right here, quietly shaping everything for good.
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