“. . . and they went on the way to return . . .” Ruth 1:7
Life is made of goodbyes and hellos. It’s a normal part of life. We’ve all experienced it
countless times. Life is made up of a series of home and away. Going away and coming
home is what we do. Sometimes going away is forced on us by circumstances,
sometimes it’s harder to come back. Going away changes people, and returning may
mean finding that others have changed too. The beginning of the story of Ruth is like
that. It’s a going away and coming back story in which both leaving and returning are
Each woman is faced with a decision about returning. These decisions are made
between Moab and Bethlehem. Between the security of the homeland and the risk of a
foreign land. Moab is home for Orpah and Ruth. Moab is foreign land to Naomi. It was
a place of death, and a place where the security and identity of all three women have
been lost. The tension for us all is weighing the options of saying goodbye in the place
we are most comfortable, and hello to the unfamiliar.
For Naomi, Bethlehem is home. For Ruth and Orpah, Bethlehem is a place of risk. For
Orpah the risk was too great, she said goodbye, and returned home. Ruth chose
against the odds, and said hello to a life of the unknown. In Bethlehem, Ruth will be a
woman with no husband, no sons, and no identity, but she speaks deep words of
commitment to go with Naomi. Most of the chapter is a lesson on how to return.
Connect to your community.
Naomi does not go it alone, her two daughters go with her. The three women had
formed a bond during the years in Moab. Ruth and Orpah had watched Naomi pick
herself up after the death of Elimelech. They had seen Naomi’s faith in God. A faith that
was so deep and strong and noble; it was so different from their idol worship of Moab.
It’s vital, while facing the circumstances of life, that we have the support of a local
community of believers. They become the force of encouragement and stability.
Cut out cynicism.
Naomi is depressed. She is consumed by the guilt of not being able to replace the
husbands the girls have lost, she expects very little from God. Naomi’s faith hangs by a
thread. In returning, we have to be careful not to let the circumstances shape our view
of God. We must guard against becoming distrustful, contemptuous and pessimistic. No
matter our feelings or focus, God is still faithful and you can always come home.
In what ways are you challenged by these steps?