Ruth: Overcoming Others’ Expectations

Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple during their women’s ministry event. We unpacked the topic of expectations, dealing with our own and the ones that other people place on us. Whew, letting go of unhealthy expectations and learning to embrace God’s is so refreshing and liberating!

One of the Bible characters we examined was a woman named Ruth in the Old Testament. She was able to overcome the negativity surrounding her heritage and bloom into the woman God designed for her to be.

Ruth’s Backstory

Ruth was a Moabitess woman, and the Moabites did not have a G-rated history. In fact, there were some good reasons the descendants of Abraham viewed the people of Moab with scorn. You see, Moab was the incestuous son of Lot by one of his daughters. It probably didn’t help that at one point, the king of Moab also tried to pay a soothsayer named Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22). However, God prevented Balaam from pronouncing a curse and instead gave him words of blessing for the Israelites. Still, these people clearly had grounds to resent and disdain the Moabites.

So you can only imagine how they must have viewed Ruth the Moabitess when she came with her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem. Despite the odds stacked against her, Ruth was able to break free from the expectations of other people.

Naomi’s Expectation: Go home to the people of Moab and remarry. That’s where you belong.

Naomi’s husband Elimelech had moved his family into Moab because of a famine in the land of Judah. Moab may have seemed like a land of plenty at the time, but Elimelech and his two sons died there (cause of death unspecified). As a result, his widow Naomi and her two Moabitess daughters-in-law are left alone.

Naomi expects both women to return to their fathers’ houses until they remarry, but Ruth does something unexpected. She clings to her mother-in-law, vowing that Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God, her God (Ruth 1:16-17). Although her sister-in-law Orpah returns home, Ruth stays with Naomi and travels with her to Bethlehem.

The Jews’ Expectation: Your past defines who you are.

Ruth had to be a patient woman. Even I get tired of reading the number of times she is called “the Moabitess” in the short four-chapter book that bears her name.

When the people of Bethlehem asked about her, the response left no doubt of her history.

  • 5 times she’s referred to as a Moabitess
  • 1 time she’s called a Moabitish damsel
  • The country of Moab is mentioned 11 times in the book

As I read Ruth’s story, I can almost hear the emphasis on the word Moab. It’s as if the gossips of Bethlehem were telling her, “We know your past, and it will define your future.”

Human Nature’s Expectation: Treat people the way you’ve been treated.

If you’re a Disney fan, you’re probably excited about the trend to create live action versions of our favorite childhood animated movies. One of mine is the live action Cinderella, and I particularly enjoy its theme of kindness – even to those who are unkind. When the prince finally rescues Cinderella from her attic prison, she turns and tells her cruel stepmother, “I forgive you.”

This intentional forgiveness flies in the face of human nature, which would have us treat others the way they treat us. But Cinderella doesn’t do what comes naturally, because she doesn’t dwell on the past or treat her stepmother the way she was treated. Instead, she forgives and moves on.

I think Ruth may be something of an Old Testament Cinderella. She doesn’t focus on the stigma of her heritage or treat others with the disdain they may have shown her. Her ambition is to care for her grieving mother-in-law, so she works hard. She gleans the leftovers in a near kinsman’s field from dawn until sundown.

And her reputation is acknowledged by Boaz, the man who ultimately redeems and (spoiler) marries her.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11, NKJV).

Ruth even receives recognition from the gossips of Bethlehem, the same women who likely whispered “Moabitess” until it seemed like a stigma that would forever define her. When Ruth and Boaz have a son, they tell Naomi, “…for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:15b, NKJV).

God’s Expectation: You belong to me, and I have good plans for you.

Ruth had the courage to break through the expectations that seemed to bind her to the cursed country of Moab, and as a result, she became the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17-22).

Don’t ever believe the world’s lie that your past defines you, that you’ll never “belong” or “fit in.” If you’re God’s child, you’re an heir of promise (Ephesians 3:6).

Heir of promise. That’s God’s expectation that I want to define me. How about you?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetable

Ruth: Overcoming Others’ Expectations – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

God Cares for You

The other night, I woke up at 4 am, wide away and overcome with a sense of anxiety.  It wasn’t a panic attack, but my heart wasn’t buying my head’s coaxing that everything was fine and to go back to sleep.

Finally, I tossed off the covers and retreated to my quiet place. Opening the Psalms, I started reading in the last place I had left off and just prayed that the words would soak into my insecure soul. The enemy was feeding me lies: You’ll never be enough. You’re not doing a good job. 

A personal story

Transparency moment: I’m an easy-going person who finds pleasure in life’s simple joys. I never realized how much my personality would clash with all the expectations people place on weddings. Truth be told, I don’t care if there are pew flowers or if my dress would be picked on a runway. I’m surprised and not sure how to respond when I hear that people are talking about who’s getting invited to my wedding and who’s not. (Seriously, we’re just trying to keep this simple!) However, the result is that I’m left feeling “less than” or if something is wrong with me, and then I worry I’m disappointing someone.

Of course, I want my special day to be beautiful just like any other bride would want. Yes, I hope those who celebrate with us feel special and appreciated. But what I desire far more is a Christ-centered marriage. At the end of the day, I don’t care about impressing people.  I care about loving my future husband well and honoring God through our commitment to each other.

Yet in a culture that obsesses with the external, I often feel out of place and inadequate. Maybe that’s a good thing.

When you feel anxious

Perhaps you’re not stressing over a wedding, but there may be something else keeping you up at night. May I share some of the verses that brought me comfort?

  • “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:4-5 ESV)
  • “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5 NKJV)
  • “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …” (Psalm 46:1-2a NKJV)
  • “For the Lord will be your confidence, And will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:26 NKJV)

A better solution than sheep

I finally crawled back into bed around five in the morning, closed my eyes, and started whispering over and over, “God cares for you.” That promise was my takeaway from God’s Word. God cares for me. He cares for me so much that He promises to direct my paths and never lead me astray. He cares for me even when other people misunderstand me. He is my good Shepherd, my good Father. He cares for me.

Friend, He cares for you too. If you can’t sleep, find refuge in His Word. Don’t try to count sheep. Latch onto His promises and remember He cares for you.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

God Cares for You – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Making the Manger Personal

Last September, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with a colleague, work remotely, and research my next novel. During one of our day-tripping adventures, we visited a place called Civita di Bagnoregio, a place sometimes called “the dying town.” This city rests atop a hill that is slowly eroding, and the place itself is breathtaking.

As my friend Maria and I explored the city, I suddenly stopped short. There, to my right, were the remains of a manger.

A manger. The scene seemed taken right out of a nativity story set in Bethlehem, and yet here we were in Italy. As I soaked in the moment, a few realizations struck me. Though perhaps I’d already known them, I hadn’t taken them to heart before. Maybe you can relate.

The manger was a common place chosen for an anything-but-common Christ.

Jesus could have been born anywhere else. People expected that the Messiah would come as king and break Rome’s oppression. They expected a palatial birth with pomp and circumstance. As a result, they couldn’t even recognize His birth in a stable, among animals and dirt, to a simple girl and her carpenter-husband.

I get caught up in my expectations sometimes, too. I expect God to provide a certain way, and when He doesn’t, I feel confused and frustrated. Yet God’s uncommon methods are the very means He uses to accomplish His will back then and today.

The manger stands as a challenge for simplicity and personal humility.

For introverts like me, Christmastime can overwhelm the senses with programs, white-elephant gift exchanges, Sunday school parties, special services, shopping, and everything that we’ve come to expect. Granted, those things may all have a time and place, but they often distract from the main reason we celebrate.

When I looked at the manger, all I saw was a rickety feeding trough that did double-duty as the Messiah’s crib. Its bare simplicity reminded me what a humble birthplace Christ accepted. It reminded me of these verses from Philippians where the Apostle Paul challenged his writers to adopt the mindset of Christ:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV).

Is that mind in me? Is it in you? If I’m honest, it often isn’t. I prefer things my way, on my schedule, for my convenience. Yet Jesus exercised humility even though He was equal to God! How much more should humility characterize my thoughts and actions?

Back in Italy that day, I felt reluctant to leave this manger-like scene. However, I don’t have to relegate the manger to once-a-year Christmas stories and pageants. I can strive to apply the truths it represents every day of the year. So can you.

May you experience the joy of God’s unexpected blessings this Christmas and always!

~Kristen

Thanks to DailyPS.com for hosting this week’s post on their blog. 

 

Tweetable

Making the Manger Personal – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Theme for 2018: Wait and See

Like many of you, each year I write goals with the understanding that God can shape and change them however He sees best. For the last few years, I’ve also chosen a word that I hope will capture my prayers and dreams for the New Year.

Lately, God’s been showing me that I need to lay aside my expectations and embrace the reality that His plans may be different than I imagined. And that’s okay. In fact, His ways are far better.

However, I still struggle sometimes. “Lord, but I thought …” or “But isn’t this a good expectation?” Yet I imagine I’m somewhat like Job who thought he had the right to ask God a question when he didn’t have the faintest idea what was really going on.

That’s why I’ve chosen a theme, not just a word, for 2018: Wait and see. I want to let go of my expectations and let God have His own way in my life. Sure, I still have goals I’m working toward, but I’m trying to hold loosely onto them. For you visual friends, the mental image that goes along with this theme is an open hand. I want God to give or take away whatever He sees fit.

In other words, I need to desire, not any specific outcome, but simply the Lord Himself. My expectation needs to be from Him, because at the end of the day, only He can satisfy.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7 NKJV)

I love the start of a new year because it holds so many possibilities. In 2018, let’s not get wrapped up in our own agendas. Let’s be willing for God to surprise us with His best.

Wait and see.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Be willing for God to surprise you with His best – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

New Year’s Theme: Wait and See – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)