In December my sister-in-law took my kids and me to see The Story, which is a concert featuring various Christian artists performing songs related to stories from Genesis to Revelation. It was wonderful and I highly recommend it if you ever find it is coming to your area. So generous is my sister-in-law that she also gave me the CD and I have been wearing it flat out ever since. There is one song in particular that I have listened to endlessly and it still makes me cry every single time. Which is kind of a bummer because during my own personal "Chevy Tahoe Presents Concert in the Car" that happens as I run errands around the 'hood, I perform the Amy Grant part and it's hard to hit all the notes when I'm sobbing.
The song, I'm With You, is related to the story of Ruth and Naomi - two of my favorite women in the Bible. At the outset, let me point out, I do not waste my time getting all bent out of shape about the prevalence of men in the Bible and the lack of women. All the stories in the Bible have something important to say to me because, well, Word of God and all. Still, I would be lying if I said I don't stand up and take notice when I am studying women in the Bible.
I love the obedience and courage of the blessed Mary, of course. I am in awe of the loyalty and bravery of Esther, of course. Of all the women of the Bible, though, I think that Ruth and Naomi and their story seem most personal to my life and the lives of so many Ruths and Naomis that I have encountered over the years. Whether I have known these women for 30 years, or 10 years or even just a few months, I have realized that we, girlfriends, have all been or have the chance to be Ruths and Naomis. I have been blessed by countless women who like Ruth are reminders to me of my God's ever present help in trouble, of His unwavering love and loyalty to me even when I can't see Him, and of His plan for my life that will not leave me in sadness and grief, but will end with a peace that transcends understanding.
I'm going to give you the 1st grade Sunday School version of the story of Ruth and Naomi because that's pretty much all I can type out right now due to the fact that I'm starting this post on Day 9 without Diet Coke. By the time this posts, I'll either be a woman with will of steel or I'll be way off the wagon.
Naomi was a Jewish woman who along with her husband and two sons left Israel to move to a foreign land, Moab, to escape the famine. Shortly after, Naomi's husband dies, but her sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, and they settle in to Moab for about 10 years. Then tragedy strikes and both of her sons die leaving the women alone. Naomi, now bitter and grief stricken, starts the journey back to her home of Bethlehem and urges her daughters-in-law to go back to their mothers, feeling that life with her will likely be one of poverty and sadness. Orpah, although reluctantly, does go back to Moab, but Ruth will have none of that. Her loyalty and love toward her mother-in-law will not be shaken and in Ruth 1:16 we read some of the most inspiring words about friendship, love and loyalty in the Bible.
"But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge 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 my God."
Poor Naomi had become bitter and perhaps felt that her God to whom she had been faithful had abandoned her. Naomi just needed a reminder. My pastor once said that when facing pain, grief, struggle or a true crisis of faith with a friend, we do not need to feel compelled to defend God. He can take care of that all by His all-powerful self. All we need to do is what Ruth did for Naomi which is to say "It's you and me, sister. Me and you. No way, no how, am I leaving you. Just like our God. Our God. We're all in this together."
I've seen so many women being reminders to each other. I've seen women recognize that help is not in justifying a problem with reason or coming up with a system or a plan to fix a pain unfix-able by human hands. I've seen women remember that when a mother has suffered loss unimaginable, they cannot make it better, but they can let her know that they would move mountains to do so if it was in their power. I've seen women travel across miles in the dead of winter to remind a friend who is struggling to believe it, that there is a love that does not fail. I've seen women remind young mothers that they are not alone in the brutal exhaustion that comes with newborns and toddlers and that joy (and sleep) will come again. I've seen women cry together when those babies grew up into teenagers wondering why they ever thought the early years were hard. I've seen women realize that sometimes we must back off and let God work.
My two favorite lines from this song are:
We can shake our fists at times like this, when we don't understand. Or we could just hold hands.
And then the ultimate lesson of Ruth and Naomi:
In the way you always love me, I remember He does too.
Ladies, we don't have to be God. We are called to jog someone's memory a bit, to be a clue and a path to Him.
I know it's easy to skip the song. Push play today, friends. I think you'll be blessed. Then let's go out and be a reminder.