Last week in this series, we met Ruth, the Moabite woman who found her happy ending with Boaz. Because she plays the starring role, we get her story in detail and sometimes overlook the supporting character, Naomi. She is Ruth’s mother-in-law, and without her I’m not sure how Ruth and Boaz’s story would have played out.
At the beginning of the Book of Ruth, Naomi has faced incredible tragedy, having lost first her husband and later both of her sons. Being single at any time or by any circumstance can be very hard, but there must be a special kind of vulnerability when you realize that the person you have loved, leaned on, and found security in, is gone. Couples in a relationship jokingly use the term “my other half,” but I imagine it can truly feel as though a big chunk of you is missing when you lose that person. Naomi must have felt that everything had been stripped away from her. My heart goes out to her when she tells others not to call her Naomi any more but to call her “Mara”, a name which means “bitter” (Ruth 1:20).
All she has left now are her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi announces her plans to go home to her people and tries to persuade the two other women to go back to their mothers. Orpah follows her advice, but Ruth digs her heels in and refuses to leave Naomi. I think these two women must have had a special bond. As widows, they could comfort each other in a way that only people who have endured the same sorrow can do. The two of them head back to Judah together, and a lot of the focus shifts to Ruth and her story from here on out. Naomi doesn’t disappear from the pages though, because she’s the one in the background telling Ruth all about Boaz, encouraging her to go to his barley fields, and advising her throughout the blossoming romance. Every girl needs a wise woman in her life to give her good relationship advice, and Naomi is just that. By the end of the book, Ruth and Boaz are happily married, and Naomi is a nurse for their son, Obed, whose grandson would be King David. The woman who once called herself “bitter” is now holding in her arms a child who will be the grandfather of a king.
Maybe you’re struggling to re-learn how to be single again and how to support yourself financially and emotionally. Maybe you thought you’d have a partner to lean on for the rest of your days, and now you’re raising your babies all by yourself. Maybe, like Naomi, all you can taste in your life is bitterness. It might be hard to imagine it now, but what if, when you come out from the other side of this grief and loneliness, something wonderful is waiting for you? I’m pretty sure Naomi didn’t realize that she’d have a connection to royalty. What does God have planned for you? I don’t know. Just remember that this is not the end of your story.