Nine out of ten wives will spend some portion of their lives in widowhood (pg 55).
I could be one of those nine and so could you…
I attended a Financial Management course in Monterey, California the week before my wedding. I was 24 years old and had the opportunity to connect with another young woman in the class. As we walked to lunch, we exchanged pleasantries and asked about each other’s lives. With much excitement, I told that I was about to get married. She, who was only a few years older than me said, “I was married once.” I did not want to enter into the intimate details of her life so I was readying myself to switch gears to another conversation. Then she said, “I was married for two years and then my husband died.”
She was the first Ruth that I met…a young widow. The truth left a lump in my throat. I was planning a wedding and could not bear the thought of planning my future husband’s funeral and certainly not after two years of marriage (I mean she was still in the honeymoon stage). I know that I was marrying “til death do us part,” but that parting was supposed to be somewhere down the road (like after the grandkids but before there is a need to put us both in a nursing home). Better yet, “Why couldn’t we die peacefully in our sleeps together like the cute old couple at the end of The Notebook?” That’s how I desired my marriage life to transpire, but we all know that life is not like that.
In the sunny rays of California, the story of a widow’s life was shared by a younger woman. It was a story of great sorrow, yet not all was lost. In this country, she was still acknowledged – young, intelligent, attractive, and yes, if she desired, she could marry again (1 Timothy 5:14). The pain of her loss did not go away, but she was still living.
Such is not the case with the Naomi’s in our culture. In the Book of Ruth, we do not know Naomi’s exact age, but we know that she was an older woman. The hardship of her life, insurmountable heartbreak, the long journey back to Bethlehem, and continuous suffering must have added years to her face and frame. Physically, she was still alive, but everything within her was crying for dead. “Call me Mara (bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi (pleasant)? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me (Ruth 1:20b-21).”
And I wonder how many widows feel that way? I’m particularly concerned about the Naomi’s in this world, even in American culture where our elderly are normally tossed aside like yesterday’s newspaper.
We were honored to serve a group of Naomi’s at a fellowship on Sunday. Our message to them: You are valuable to the Kingdom of God. You are valuable to our church. We appreciate you and God still has work for you to do (our reference – Joshua 13:1). Likewise, we are here to serve you.
Our Deacons developed a “Widows List” and have pledged to support the needs of this valued group of women. As the Co-Director of our Women’s Mentoring Ministry, we have offered them a ministry to connect with other women, to lead, serve, and be served by others. (The New Testament addresses the responsibilities that the church has towards widows in 1 Timothy 5; Carolyn covers the topic under the section, The Needy One Provides on pages 68-69.)
In the Book of Ruth and The Gospel of Ruth, “God’s purposes for humanity are riding on the shoulders of two women the world believes have lost their ability to contribute (79).” These two women were widows and we have a lot to learn from them. We have a lot to learn from each other.
How do you honor the widows in your life? How does your church serve and equip the women in your congregation? What lessons have you learned from Ruth, Naomi, or another widow in your life?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011
CONGRATULATIONS to QuaWanna Bannarbie for winning this quarter’s book recommendation!
We’ll continue this discussion on the 19th.
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2 thoughts on “The Gospel of Ruth: This Could Be You…”
Thank you for your thoughtful post. As a prior military member, loss of loved ones to loss is an all to familiar. However, I find it difficult to know what to say to a widow, as the thought of losing my husband is beyond comphrension. How long should a widow grieve?
On my last ship, a fellow male officer lost his wife several weeks prior to Christmas. He was understandably distraught. My department head told me to talk with him immediately after his loss, as none of the male officers were “comfortable” with these discussions. All I did was listen and pray for the widow’s peace in his time of grief.
Gina, thank you for the very honest comment about not knowing what to say to a widow. I would say, “Talk to her like you would talk to anyone else.” One of the reasons that I am passionate about diversifying our women’s mentoring groups is so that various women can have the opportunity to learn from each other. I find that sometimes all people want you to do is be available and to listen, and pray as you have indicated.