I want to echo Patti's great observation that while this is a pretty simple book it is universal and practical--this is for every woman at every stage and gets to the core of our daily walk. Thus, the exemplary lives of Ruth and Naomi as the thread that will run throughout this "book study" fits despite the differences in culture, ages, situations as we examine how they answer God's call to do these hard things. And as we observed last night, we have more in common with them than we might think.
They endured a relativistic, immoral culture under often weak leadership, economic struggles, and the inability to provide for their family. They suffered the tragedies of women--widowhood, single parenting, death of children, barrenness.
This week, the reading dealt with having a single focus and I saw anew that theme in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi, in her pain, never loses sight of the sovereignty of God. She acknowledges his right in her life to give and take away. She says his hand has gone against her but that he has also "visited his people" by giving them bread. Her decision to go back to Bethlehem testifies to her belief in God's sovereign hand.
Ruth's decision on the road to Bethlehem is a radical one as she places her only hope in God--a God she knows only by the witness of Naomi and her family. Her decision to go to Bethlehem (where almost certain widowhood awaits for a Moabite woman without a father) is less about loyalty to Naomi or family responsibilities than a faith in the one, true God. Unlike her sister-in-law Orpah, she doesn't return to her people and her gods. She turns, redirects her heart, and never looks back. Carolyn James in The Gospel of Ruth sees this as the legacy of Ruth:
“This is the gospel of Ruth—a shaft of light across the empty blackness of a broken life—a woman’s radial faith that refuses to say, “So much for your God.” Ruth’s brand of faith is not some free-floating optimism or a Cinderella belief in a “happily ever after” that awaits…Ruth’s faith is grounded in the God who created her and who reveals himself in creation, in history, and in his people…Ruth is a powerful reminder that the most important thing in all of life—the purpose for which we were all created—is to know the God who made us and to walk through life as his child, no matter what is costs us.”
As we turned to the week's reading, here are some of the questions we discussed:
- What responsibilities, activities, distractions, or attention-absorbers make it most difficult for you to consistently focus on him?
- What do you do to refocus on Jesus (see pg. 19)?
- He is focused on us. He is El Roi, the God Who Sees, the name Hagar called Him from the desert. How does knowing that affect you?
- "Our spiritual multi-tasking list is really a "to be" list (page 23). How does that shift in thinking--from "to do" to "to be"--impact how we view our call?
- Looking at the "to be" list, which comes more easily to you? Which is more difficult?
- Has God brought to your mind other important characteristics that you want him to manifest in your life?
- How are our single-focus and our multi-tasking "to be" list related? What is the danger of only attempting one or the other?
I welcome your comments, those who were there last night and those who couldn't make it!
See you all next week!