The book of Ruth has always been one of my favorites. I recently reread it and, as Hebrews 4:12 reminds us, the Word of God is living and active, so something new struck me.
Ruth is a book that is about, among other things, belonging. And what more do we want as humans, as women, than to belong?
In the story’s beginning, we see Ruth take a step toward the one true God and away from the gods of her youth and upbringing as a Moabite. I love to imagine that in deciding to stay with Orpah, her mother-in-law, after the death of her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law, saying the ever-famous verse at weddings, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God,” (Ruth 1:16), she sees that THIS God is one worth following. That the family she married into showed God’s character so clearly, that even after losing everything, she could find a place to belong. She belongs in God’s family, and in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
We can learn a lot about what it takes for her to find belonging in her new community as well.
When Ruth arrives in Bethlehem, she is an outsider. A widow with no prospects in a new place. Her arrival stirs the nest, and she’s the subject of much of a tizzy.
But she chooses a vulnerable position. She opens herself up to an unknown situation. She gleans wheat (picks what is left over) in a field of unknown ownership.
Sometimes, we too, have to put ourselves in a place that is out of our comfort zone as the first step toward community. To attend the gathering, to sign up for the small group, to be the one that puts the coffee or play date together. We have to convince ourselves that the hope of success can outweigh the fear of rejection. That’s where we find Ruth.
I was in a successful small group for many years. I measure success as the fact that we met consistently, we held each other accountable, we studied God’s word together, we spurned each other on, and we were there in the victories and valleys. It took one vulnerable step to send the text, “Hey, we have something in common, (in this case, our husbands all met as a group), we should get together!”
We met consistently for about a year before we really felt that we had crossed over a barrier of vulnerability and acceptance. All it took was one person being willing and feeling safe enough to open up about something that was troubling her, and we gathered around to support and how her accountable. From there, vulnerability begat vulnerability. One person needed to tip the edge before we could find our footing and truly support one another.
Similarly, it took Ruth one vulnerable step (that had a high risk of rejection) toward a trustworthy person, for her story to tip the scales of history.
She takes a risk and lies at the feet of Boaz on the threshing floor. Boaz is her family’s “guardian-redeemer,” meaning, that by extension he is legally and morally responsible for helping to continue this family line.
Had Boaz been a less kind or trustworthy advocate, I don’t think that Ruth and her mother-in-law would have taken this chance. Earlier in our story, Boaz promises her protection and provision.
When he wakes to find a woman at his feet, he commits to working on the problem and sends her home with a bag overflowing with grain.
When we find ourselves in a place to accept someone’s trust, we, similarly, need to steward that well. We need to commit to them – their accountability, to pray for them, to support them.
Ruth’s risky, vulnerable step lead ultimately to her being a part of the community and history. She showed us how we too, can find belonging.
What can we learn from her?
- Sometimes we need to take a risky, uncomfortable step in pursuit of community and belonging.
- We need to be the kind of people that others feel safe around. We want to reflect the character of Jesus, being open, kind, and trustworthy.
We need to steward belonging well. Being careful to not be exclusionary, and keeping our friends’ hearts safe, by protecting their confidence.
Tory Vore is a writer, communicator, and small group leader with a passion for discipleship and the local church. She writes about motherhood, womanhood, and friendship, with God and others. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband James and two children. You can read more of her occasional writing at toryvore.com.