God has completely forgotten my name. I could once roll with life’s punches, but now I’m too old to care anyway.
Life was once so filled with promise. We were young and nothing could stop us, even when things went wrong. But now there’s no hope.
Elimalech and the boys were so strong. I was proud of him all those years ago, and for how they took on his strength when the famine looked like wiping us out. “We still have each other, so we can’t be beaten,” they said, “but we’ll have to leave here!”
Everybody around Bethlehem heard the rumours about seasons being better in Moab, but nobody acted on them except for us. We had little to take with us when we left, though we chose to load ourselves with hope instead of the gloomy predictions of those we left behind.
We had big dreams as we trudged down through all the dry desolation around the southern rim of the Salt Sea and kept heading east across into Moab.
Such strange people there, but what could you expect when you are surrounded by Gentiles?
God rewarded our faith with great success; even though we had left the land he had promised our forefathers. We rented a farm and we enjoyed his blessing as the boys grew to manhood.
I was so proud of them, with their deep, manly voices and their willingness to work so hard.
We prospered, we embraced our sons’ wives as our own daughters, and we felt we could stare down any threat.
How wrong we were. The locals came to resent our success, and we heard them muttering about “migrants taking all our best. They should go back where they belong!” Somehow our supplies got harder to get, and our prices started dropping while our neighbours maintained their levels.
Just over a year ago, Elimalech came home with a welt on his head where a horse had kicked him. He was quiet over supper and went to bed early. That night he groaned as I nestled against him, so I moved away to give him some space.
When I awoke next day, I reached across and felt the cold stillness of his lifelessness. I tried to warm him with my body, but death’s chill maintained its mocking vigil. If only I could have comforted him in his hour of need.
We wept, we grieved, we moved on; weaker but more aware that life can be short.
I could not have suspected life could get any shorter, but it has. Both of my boys, Mahlon and Kilion, have been taken – both in their prime and with so much to live for. Who can explain this to me? Who can understand the ache in my heart; the emptiness in my stomach; the pounding, ceaseless questions that shred those flickers of sleep that ridicule my weariness? Who knows the numbness that defies all reason when you outlive your children? Who can answer? And why does God run for cover when you need him?
God has forgotten my name. He no longer cares.
My daughters-in-law are grief-stricken. But what comfort can I offer them? I’m too old for any dating agency to snap me onto its list. And even if I found a man and produced new sons, these beautiful girls of mine will never stand a chance in competing against younger women.
It’s back to Bethlehem for me; the sooner the better.
Orpah has kissed me goodbye, for she knows that life holds more for her here among her own people. She is wise, even in her grief, to make this decision. And now I must hear Ruth embrace the same wisdom, for it is for the best. I will miss her, but life goes on – for her if not for me.
But where do these words come from, as the tears fill her eyes and we cling to each other, hearts desperately seeking to deny all that has happened?
“Naomi, don’t ask 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 will be 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 – 18 NIV)
Author’s note. In this heart-wrenching, humanly-impossible scenario, God was earmarking the commitment that infused Ruth’s DNA, to sow this character-strength into the genetic makeup of David; who later became Israel’s greatest king.
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