My oldest daughter started middle school today. She attends a wonderful Christian school – the kind where they make you read the Bible but they don’t grade you on it because they just want you to soak in the Word and not be told “I’m getting a C in Bible”. At orientation night I saw their reading assignments up on the board for the first few days of school…. Starting with Ruth 1.
I have struggled with my quiet times greatly for the last two years – ever since I started working and got a smartphone. I have yet to find a good work/life balance. But that’s a topic for another day. Suffice it to say I wanted to try again to renew my commitment to start my day in God’s Word. And those words on the board were like an open invitation to me… what better place to start than with the place my daughter is starting? So after my husband pulled out of the driveway this morning, taking my girls to their first day of school, I sat down and read Ruth 1.
It was a great chapter for me to read at this time in my life, but that’s not what made me want to sit down and write. At bedtime tonight, I asked my daughter if they had read Ruth 1 in school today and she told me they had. I asked her if anything had stood out to her. She said she didn’t get why Naomi told her neighbors to call her by a new name.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” ( Ruth 1:19-20, NIV)
My daughter went on “I mean, I know names were important, but really?” I could tell by some other comments she made that she didn’t quite “get” the level of sorrow Naomi was experiencing. So we talked about these things and I pointed out:
- In that day and time, women were not independent like they are now. Their very livelihood rested in their husbands and their children. She has lost both her husband AND her two sons. That meant she had no means to support herself.
- A mother is not meant to outlive her children. It’s just not the natural order of things and when it happens, it brings the depths of sorrow.
- The importance of names in that culture…. a name wasn’t just something you were called, it was descriptive. Naomi means “pleasant”, Mara means “bitter”. So Naomi’s statement indicates that she has changed in her core.
I then told my daughter that she, too, would feel that way someday. Everyone experiences something like that at some point. And, as her teenager years approach, I imagine she will feel that way multiple times. Women are very emotional creatures, it’s just how we were designed. Add the raging hormones of puberty and you’ve got a recipe for strong feelings of frustration, depression, anxiety, which can all lead to a sense of hopelessness, as Naomi felt.
BUT, when those times come, we MUST remember, that those feelings are NOT God’s truth. God’ truth does not change, even in the midst of our raging emotions, even when it seems like our world is falling apart around us. Whether those emotions are caused by the most intense grief and despair, as Naomi must have felt, or something more temporary, as I’m sure my teenage daughter will experience in the years to come. Or even as I have felt in my emotional rollercoaster days. When we are tempted to lose hope, to give up and claim an identity of bitterness, we must remind ourselves that we are God’s children. He has claimed us. He has filled us with His Spirit. The spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That he has a plan for our lives, and that ALL things can be used for His glory.