(Written by: Kristin Funston)
Have you ever read the book of Ruth? If you haven’t, you should. Go ahead. It’s short – only four chapters. I’ll wait right here while you finish…
Done? Awesome! Now we can continue. 😉
Well, as you read, the book centers around Ruth, a Moabite widow. We can learn great things from Ruth – loyalty, selflessness, hard work… the list goes on.
But you want to know who I learned a thing or two from today?
Her mother-in-law, Naomi.
(I know, I know – mothers-in-law… Groan. *wink*)
Ruth’s MIL is really only the focus at the beginning and the end of the book. (With a tad bit here and there in the middle.) But just because the book wasn’t named after her doesn’t mean Naomi isn’t a crucial character without a few things we could apply to our own lives.
Here are two things about Naomi’s story that stood out to me:
1) We can leave our promise land filled, but still become drained.
We’re moms – just like Naomi. As mothers, Jesus calls us to serve others. And we do.
But I would argue that we can only comfortably fill others when we are overflowing ourselves.
Naomi left Judah a full woman. But life in Moab drained her. Literally – it took everything. She left a bitter and broken woman. When Naomi returned home to Judah was when she began to heal.
It was only when she returned to the place that breathes life into her she was restored.
Our own “promised lands” are going to look different for each of us. This “place” doesn’t have to be an actual location, though it definitely could be. It could be a person, an activity, or anything else that revitalizes and refreshes us.
Often, we leave our promised lands filled, thinking our filling will sustain us. And it probably will… at least for a little while. But without it, we are drained, just as Naomi was.
What place breathes life into you?
Moms – do what you have to do to fill yourself. Get alone. Read God’s Word. Maybe attend a conference. Or read an uplifting book. Heck, take a nap! 😉
I believe Jessica Turner, author of The Fringe Hours, hit the nail on the head when she said:
“The reason so many women today struggle to make themselves a priority is because they are trying to be everything for everyone. If you are like most women, you believe (maybe subconsciously) that this is what’s required of you. This is a lie. In fact, living as though you have to be everything for everyone will suck the life right out of you.” (Emphasis mine).
Now, I don’t know the details of Naomi’s day-to-day life. But I can imagine with dying sons, a passed husband, and two widowed daughters-in-law she did this – tried to be everything for everyone. Sure, she took time to mourn, but she also had responsibilities for her daughters-in-law and an entire home laid on her shoulders. And as a mom, I’m willing to bet she didn’t let those responsibilities slide.
While you and I have plenty of responsibilities, Naomi shows us we cannot allow ourselves to be so beaten down by the life and the day-to-day that we become bitter (Ruth 1: 20). Life can suck the life right out of us if we’re not careful.
We must allow the Ruth’s in our lives to help refuel us (more on this in a minute!) and get back to our “home.” When we are filled with goodness and happiness, we are able to overflow into others’ lives.
When leaving Moab, Naomi advised her daughters-in-law to go back to their homes, since she could offer them nothing.
Because she was empty.
Luckily (for history’s and all of our’s sake!), Ruth preserved and stuck with Naomi.
As Naomi spent more time in her homeland (and was filled), she was able to advise Ruth more in line with God’s will. Now, for the record, Naomi’s advise to Ruth may seem strange to us, but back then, it fell in line with the laws of Israel.
But because of her ability to overflow into Ruth, history was forever changed.
2) Sometimes we already have better than what we want.
Let’s adventure into the assumption that Naomi longed for another son, after having lost both of hers. She spoke early in the book of not having hope to provide Ruth with another son to marry (Ruth 1:12). Back in biblical times, much of a family’s dignity fell onto the shoulders of the male children. Sons were highly coveted because of their ability to carry on family names/traditions/etc. So it was natural Naomi wished for a son, especially since she had lost both hers.
But Naomi already had better. She had Ruth.
Ruth’s name means “friend,” and she was definitely that to Naomi – plus so much more. Ruth was loyal, hard-working, courageous, obedient, and humble. Naomi had faithfulness and honor radiating from her daughter-in-law, as well as a future foremother of the Jesus Christ.
Honestly, how much better does it get than that?
This makes me look at the things I covet, both material and relational things. It also makes me take a closer and longer look at the people in my life that have stuck with me. The ones that most days I take for granted – friends, my kids, my husband… Can they help refill me like Ruth poured into Naomi? I believe so.
What (or who!) do you already have that is better than what you want?
Remember, the grass isn’t always greener.
Have you thought recently about the impact YOU might have if you applied a few of Naomi’s lessons into your own life? I don’t know about you, but this makes me excited. Naomi’s influence ran deep through Ruth, just as any mother’s does through their children. Just as I do for my family.
And just as you do for yours.
When we keep ourselves filled, we subconsciously overflow into those around us, and equip our family and friends with the tools they need to do great things.
And you know what? When we do this, we might just recognize that we already have it better than we’ve ever wanted.