(June 8, 2020)
From Ruth 1:19
“So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem.”
So Naomi finally returns to Bethlehem. It has been so long and so much has happened that you might imagine how much talk was going around that small town. “Naomi is back!”
But Naomi responds: Do not call me “Naomi” (which means “beautiful”) call me “Mara” (which means “bitter”). Because God has made my life very bitter and I have come back empty-handed.
It is true that Naomi has suffered much loss; we dare not dismiss it. Yet, I wonder what Ruth thought upon hearing those words. “You have nothing, Naomi? Nothing, you mean, except for me?” What happened to the duo walking lockstep in 1:19? Naomi has Ruth. “Ruth” means something like “friend” or “companion.” She is someone who understands. Ruth has shown much loyalty to her. And exhibited much boldness. Ruth has suffered with her. And Ruth has pledged to let nothing but death come between them. Ruth just gave up everything, including her homeland – as they return to Naomi’s home. And one of the reasons that Ruth is doing this is because she has fallen in love with Naomi’s God. God is what Ruth so deeply wants, and Naomi has known God her entire life. But yes, other than all that, I suppose Mara has nothing.
* * *
Bitterness is often born out of loss. It comes from being treated unfairly and having a deep sense of injustice. Everyone has had a taste of it. It is not something to be minimized or dismissed. But the question is if whether we cling to our bitterness so much that it consumes us; that it begins to takeover our identity. And, in so doing, we miss the blessing that is right beside us.
…Is there something you are bitter about?
Yes, Naomi had things that were legitimately painful. She also had things that she could most certainly give thanks for. It takes great intentionality to be Beautiful when we want to be Bitter. But the choice is ours.
* * *
Father, may we give thanks in all things. May we rejoice in what is pure, honorable, trustworthy, true – in whatever is praiseworthy. Knowing You is reason enough to be thankful. In the Name of the Beautiful One who suffered without being bitter, Jesus Christ. Amen.