Summary: Being more than a survivor means risking everything for God’s sake
Listen to this comment I heard the other day. “We’ve adopted such an attitude of “risk avoidance” that I’m afraid we may well miss the next great advancement. We’re so afraid of failure that we may not pursue that next step.” This quote was from 1997 and was made on a TV show about “stealth technology”. As I channeled surfed Wednesday night and heard this I realized the truth of it applies too much more than just aircraft technology. And may be even truer for us today, after the horror of September 11th.
One thing the attacks did was to heighten our desire to be safe. If we wanted to hide from the big bad world before we sure did after New York. We want to get back to the place where we feel a sense of comfort and security. But to do this will take massive changes that we have to not only accept but welcome if we want to feel safe. Not just long lines at airports but perhaps face recognition software in stores and along highways or even universal identity cards carried by everyone one all the time.
We have good reason to be afraid. But healthy fear can grow into a dream crushing force when left unchallenged. Fears can rise up in us and frustrate, attack and eat away at our goals and dreams till we finally give up on dreams altogether. Instead of dealing with the Fear Factor we toss away the dreams which may well be God given. We determine we won’t be disappointed by such dreams and so we toss out the goal of becoming more like Jesus along with the rest of our dreams
Let me suggest that the real answer isn’t in getting rid of our dreams but in dealing with our fear. Frank Herbert, the author of Dune has a mantra called the Shai-Hulud and goes.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it is gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain
Such self-talk may help characters in a book and it might not hurt us either but I believe that fears must be dealt with in the power and with the presence of God. And that’s what we see happening here with Ruth.
Ruth had every reason to be afraid. She was widowed. Her extended family which she had married into was self-destructing. With no male relatives to care for them they had to fend for themselves. What’s more extended family wasn’t local one but came from Judah, a nation that wasn’t always friendly toward Moab.
This is where Ruth is living emotionally as Naomi announces that she’s going to return to her own people. Suddenly this woman who she’s lived with for the past 10 years is going away. Naomi doesn’t want to burden them and so encourages them to return to their families. In the Ancient Near East women usually didn’t return home because they were seen as belonging to their husband’s family.
Naomi isn’t being mean but genuinely hopes that God, her God, will give them another husband and find “rest”. That’s word doesn’t mean not having to work but to find a place of safety and security much like we seek.
Naomi’s faith was not lost on her daughters-in-law over the years. But when push comes to shove Orpha leaves and returns home “to her gods”; but Ruth clings to Naomi and refuses to depart. I believe Ruth not only loved Naomi but had come to the God whom Naomi worshipped.
Ruth’s fears were substantial but her faith was grand enough to allow her to risk the uncertainty of the future they face as they leave and travel to Bethlehem. Now it is Ruth, not Naomi, who is the alien and stranger. Ruth-the foreigner--is now the one who is dependent on any of Naomi’s family who might be willing to take them in.
Ruth’s faith allows her to risk everything in order to be with someone she loves. She left her life behind. Everything that was familiar; family, friends, her home, and even her spiritual connection with her past. All of this is summarized in that declaration of faith she makes to Naomi—your people will be my people, your God will be my God. And this she does without knowing what awaits her. Somehow, deep in her heart of hearts, I believe she knew Naomi’s God would not abandon them.
Does this happen today? Jim Elliot, Wycliffe translator, Nate Saint, and three others flew to the Amazon jungle. January 1956 to begin trying to reach the Auca tribe. Jim had begun praying for them years before and the landing was one of the final steps to sharing the gospel with these people. Five days after landing, the report reached Elizabeth Elliot and Marge Saint, another missionary’s wife, that the Indians had attacked and killed the missionaries. Listen to what Jim Elliot had written in his journal in 1949, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."