[A few excerpts] of today’s story from The Monologue from Ruth written by Griff Martin, published by First Baptist Church of Austin, TX in 2017.
[Plenty of people think my story is a “happily ever after,” a love story for the ages. As if I’ve had time for fairytales. That’s not to say I don’t love my Boaz; I do. My second husband is a good man, but my story is about so much more:] like becoming a widow; the grit and grace that saw me through the shadows of grief; the purpose I found in letting one dream die to make way for something new. I still ponder how all the pieces fit together to make me whole again…
I met my first husband and his whole family when they moved to my country, Moab, from the land of Judah. [Oh, we had visions of green pastures, flocks of sheep], big family dinners, Moab is the place that brought us together- the place we would raise our kids. My husband’s family were Ephrathites, productive and fruitful by namesake. And I held onto this dream... until the nightmare began.
Before either my sister-in-law Orpah or I could watch our promises fulfilled in childbirth, our husbands were gone. [One by one, all of the men in our family died. First my father in law, then my brother in law, then finally my own husband.] Our sense of security and belonging torn at the seams. We had nothing but grief. Three grieving widows, together in our loneliness and pain.
[Naomi, my mother in law, she too is a good woman, a just woman]; when she decided to return to her homeland of Judah once the famine lifted, she insisted I find another husband in Moab. She knew how much I longed for a family- to see my dream of having children fulfilled. [She told Orpah the same thing. Orpah did, she went back to her mother’s home. I couldn’t.
I wasn’t worried about being welcomed back, I think I would have.] But I knew home and I knew the life that was destined for me there. When I met my immigrant husband and the God of his people, my perspectives changed- I saw light in the future, the expansive promise of love fulfilled, a new way of life that was generous and filled with hope. I could no longer be the person my family expected of me. I could not go back in time- only forward.
And Naomi, she softened the sting of loneliness after my husband died, kind soul that she is. I could not leave her; she of all people is the one who taught me loyalty of the heart. She accepted me into her family as a daughter. She lifted my dignity to that of equal. She taught me to rejoice in meeting new people and encountering different cultures. I was concerned about her wellbeing, yes; but it was more than that. She represented a future that I believed in. She led a family that was willing to leave their homeland, embracing every challenge with a steady heart; she embodied a dream that I still wanted, somehow being with her became my source of hope. And I would not leave hope or family behind. So we journeyed on to yet another unknown.
[Without a penny to our names, I promised Naomi and I promised the dream within me that I would not abandon them]: “Do not press me to leave you, or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God! Where you die, I will die- there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me and more as well, if even death parts me from you.”
That’s what I said, and I meant it.
You see, once you’ve had a dream, once you’ve seen a better way, once you’ve felt like you’re a part of something greater than yourself...it’s impossible to go back to the way things had been.
I left the familiar home of Moab on a dream. I left with the gritty feeling of sorrow and hope, trust and belonging guiding each step of the way. Naomi’s God inspired my own faith that more was possible that we might be able to see. And I stepped into the unseen future, trusting that someone would be there waiting for me. I couldn’t yet know how Naomi’s God would become my savior; I suppose that’s why it’s called faith.
Our journey back to Judah was grueling, but we worked out our grief on the way. And when we returned to the land of my husband’s ancestors, I discovered a future filled with new promise and prosperity. And that part of my story, meeting my new husband Boaz, that part is truly a blessing fulfilled. I received a new husband who was willing to see to it that my first husband’s name was honored. And friends, here’s my very favorite part: I finally had a baby, a son! A son. We named him Obed!
Oh I held onto that little bundle of promise, nurturing him with the love of God I had received. Each time I rocked him to sleep, I told him the story of us, how we came to be, despite all the odds against us.
I held onto my dream, because the faith of my husband’s family became a part of my journey too; I know deep in my soul that God creates goodness out of terrible things. They say my great-grandson David became king of God’s people. I was chosen to be a part of God’s unfolding love story because I decided to believe that God could love even someone like me. Now that’s a good story, right? Dreams are not for the faint of heart, but they do come true (mostly in ways we could never imagine). Praise be to the God who loves even me.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.