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

 

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Finding Easter Hope When You’re Flatlined by Life

Special thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Christi Perry of LearningToBeFearless.org for sharing here today. I hope her heartfelt story and challenge encourages you.

Guest post by Christi Perry

I stood in a dark room side by side with my sister and two of my friends. I was unaware of what they were doing as my eyes were closed.

The thing that captivated me was the bass drum. The music was so loud it vibrated my body— more importantly, my heart.

As I was driving home, several weeks ago, the same thing happened as I listened to a song. I was captivated with the bass drum. I finally had the courage to ask God for something again. It may seem like it’s not that big of a deal. People ask God for things every day. Yes, but I had stopped asking God for things.

I want to explain: I understand prayer’s a dialogue back and forth. God is not my genie that I expect Him to grant me all my wishes. However, He also says to come to Him and to ask, seek and knock. But the past few times I really asked, I received the opposite of what I asked for…

I asked God to save my Dad… And seven days later, my Dad passed away.

When Our Physical Hearts Stop Beating

Life can feel like it’s tearing you a part. There can be really great moments and down right awful ones. It’s easy to see God in the great ones and difficult to see him in the awful ones.

There’s an unseen enemy trying to tear us apart. But, there’s also an understanding problem because I am a finite being in relationship with an infinite being. His scope is so much more broad than my failing eyes can see.

In the past two years, I felt like my heart was laid open as it’s been picked, pulled and ripped to shreds by circumstances: failed relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of purpose, the loss of a place I called my own, the loss of my Dad.

In life, sometimes our physical hearts can stop beating, which is why AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) were invented. Most of us have seen paramedics use an AED to shock someone back to life.  As I thought about this, I thought of my heart in an emotional and spiritual sense. If our physical heart can stop beating, who is to say that our emotional and spiritual heart can’t stop beating as well?

What Can Revive Our Silent Hearts

But what’s our spiritual AED? The cross. It’s the battle cry that death has been defeated, that something shocking and gruesome would bring life. AEDs, if not used in the right circumstance, could cause death. Had Jesus not been the perfect sacrifice, his death would have resulted is nothing but death. But the perfection of Jesus and the wrath of God being satisfied for all mankind resulted in resurrection.

Before I continue, I want you to listen to a song. And when you get to minute 3:53, listen to the bass drum.

I don’t know what your Easter looks like this year. Maybe it looks like an empty seat next to you due to death or divorce. Maybe it looks like the last pew because your life has been turned upside down and you’ve had to relocate and you’re new. Maybe it looks like a morning home alone because you’ve been burned by the church. Whatever your Easter looks like, listen to this song. And pay close attention to the bass drum.

As, I hear the bass drum, I can almost picture God shocking us back to Him.

Wherever You Are This Easter

So, this Easter, wherever you are in life,  know that God the Father didn’t only send Jesus to save us for eternity. He sent Jesus to revive us.

Revive means making alive, keeping alive, and giving more life.

You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psalm 71:20)

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. (Psalm 138:7)

God sent Jesus so that we have someone in our corner. He knows our hurts. We are not unseen. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He lives to make intercessions for us.” I cannot fathom that. Exodus 14:14 also promises, “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.”

Rest assured that no matter what your Easter looks like this year, you’re held, fought for, and can be revived by the Author and Perfecter of life who overcame death on our behalf.

 

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