Gleaning

Jennifer and I have been thinking a lot lately of Ruth and Naomi’s story. I think we all love the idea of a Kinsman Redeemer providing for and rescuing Ruth. Isn’t that what we all long for? To be rescued? But this morning I was thinking about what happened in the story before she was rescued.

Ruth lost everything. She was childless. Her husband was dead. There was a famine. I think that qualifies as a pretty bad day. Instead of being taken care of it was now her responsibility to take care of herself and others. And she did.

She left her home, her family and everything she knew. She traveled to a land she had never seen and lived with a people she had never met. And she got a job. A hard job, working in the field all day from sunup ‘till sundown gleaning.

Glean- to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit;

to gather (grain and the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers;

to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly

 

Ruth lost everything and then spent hours harvesting other’s leftovers just so she and Naomi could eat.

And sometimes I feel like that’s all I do to. That I work so hard only to reap leftovers. I don’t want to glean. It’s hot and tiring and feels like you’re getting nowhere. I want to skip ahead to the back of the book where Ruth is rescued by the rich land owner and never has calloused hands again.

When the time comes for Boaz to redeem Ruth he says to her: “all of my people in the city know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11).

It’s the hard work, the leftovers, the gleaning that produces and reveals a person’s character. It is in the fire that we are purified and strengthened. Seasons of gleaning, seasons of fire aren’t sent to destroy us, they are sent to purify us, to strengthen us, to prepare us.

Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer. He is the one who watches over us as we glean the fields. He is the one who will come and rescue us one day and bring us into His home where we will never know sorrow or fatigue or pain again. We want to skip ahead to that. We’re conditioned to expect the knight on the white horse to show up an hour and forty five minutes into the story. But life isn’t a Hollywood movie. And sometimes seasons of working the field last longer than we would like them to.

In seasons of gleaning we need to remember that even here in this hard place we are still protected by our Redeemer. Boaz told Ruth to stay in his field where she would be protected. He told his harvesters to let her glean, and to leave extra for her to harvest. I don’t know why Boaz didn’t just rescue her the first day she showed up hungry and desperate. I don’t know why she had to continue working the field when the landowner was well able to supply all of her needs. I don’t know why Ruth’s season of leftovers lasted more than one day. But it did.

I do know that Ruth was faithful. She was faithful to show up every day and gather whatever was left behind for her. She was faithful to follow Boaz’s instructions. She was faithful to honor her mother in law. She was faithful to show forth godly character in the midst of some pretty hard circumstances.

I want to be more like Ruth. Not stuck in a season of gleaning. But faithful and loyal and sweet regardless of my season. I want to be thankful for whatever my provision is; whether it’s a handful of grain or more than I can carry. I want to be diligent to the work that lies before me no matter how hard the sun beats down upon my shoulders.

And I want to be steadfast in hope. Hope of a Redeemer. Hope of one day being His bride. Hope of a future life that will make all of this worth it. Because it is!

 

~Keri

Leftovers and Hands to Hold

I have always been captivated by the story of Ruth and Naomi. I have watched tragedy turn wounded hearts sour changing them inside out. I’ve cried those bitter tears grasping to get it, to accept it, and grow deeper because of it. The question ‘why’ wrecks you. Yet we verbalize our questions as it echoes back at us mockingly.

“Who is going to rescue me now?”

God will. He always does.

In Ruth 1:19 the wounded widow returns home without sons, without her love, and without hope for provision. Naomi’s pain left her almost unrecognizable, yet her people saw traces of the woman they used to know. She went out full and came home empty. (v. 21) But, she did not return alone. Clinging to her side and the God she served; stood the devoted daughter-in-law who refused to leave her stranded in her sorrow.

Ruth made a vow to the broken mother, “Where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Vs. 17)

Home was wherever they stood. Together. Broken. In need. Hungry. Clinging to a thread of hope and each other. You see, we were never meant to do this thing called life on our own. Love doesn’t walk out on you when all of life gives way and crumbles; it stands with you even though you tell it to go away. You may feel like you have nothing to offer in a state of brokenness, but with all my heart I believe letting people love you and loving them back means a complete willingness to show them our “ugly” and our mess. We shouldn’t have to jump through invisible hoops in hopes of earning unconditional love, but we do. We jump through hoops. We go through the motions. We fake it trying to mask the pain.

When Naomi spilled out her bitter complaint blaming the very God who gave her a determined daughter, I see no reply of reproach just a hand to hold as they return to a land at beginning of the harvest season. A quiet presence walking with her through the hurt, Ruth steps in to nurture her and work another mans land to provide for her. Ruth works hard, gleaning, sweating, and reaping a harvest as she finds herself content with leftovers. Proving herself a virtuous woman, the people take notice. The Kinsmen Redeemer takes notice of her, rewarding her. Her gleaning for leftovers turns into prosperity, wedding bells, sounds of babies crying, and second chances.

The God we serve does not give us leftovers. He goes all out with the full spread, He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. He fills our cups until they overflow as goodness and mercy follows us. Not just on certain days, but all of our days. (Ps 23:5-6)

There are no sloppy seconds with our God. Baby, it’s the full-course meal that satisfies and goes down easily. He is the hand we want to hold and the friend who walks with us through the mess. So work the land, cry your tears, but give God your todays and tomorrows. Let the bitterness spill out in salty form, pray until it’s emptied out. Bitterness is never a good option. It only taints what was meant to be an oasis of peace deep within, even in the mess. Never once have I felt disappointed with the God who rescues and redeems with His royal bloodline.

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be The Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the hands I get to hold along this journey, I feel like that devoted daughter that says till death do we part. I want to be better than seven sons, diligently working with these soft hands and soft heart while my God takes notice. To be soft is not a sign of weakness. It is strength wrapped up in gentleness and doing what we do best, nurture. We take turns nurturing the generations, loving them, tending to them, and listening when our Naomi’s offers instructions on how to snag a man. (Ruth 3) Or better yet, they instruct us on how to live and grieve returning back to a place of hopefulness and trust in God saying, “I used to feel so bitter, but because of you, I just feel blessed because you are here in my ugly and in my beauty. I’m with you, whatever this crazy ride looks like.”

If I could hold your hand I would, but I offer this prayer over you as you read. May you find your heart satisfied when life feels like soggy leftovers and there is no friend on the other end of the line. May find yourself clinging to a God who restores, redeems, and rescues. May His name be famous!

Much love,

Jennifer