Debbie Salter Goodwin
Ruth and a Risk of Love
As a young adult, I wondered how I could know for sure that a marriage relationship could last for life. I had only made one lifetime commitment and that was to follow God no matter what. I had no fears following a God of unfailing love, complete wisdom, unmatched resources, and infallible faithfulness. But I also knew I had not found that in human relationships. I had been misunderstood, ignored, manipulated, betrayed, and rejected more than once.
But when I met Mark, I met a man of integrity, compassion, wisdom, and faith who had uncommon depth and humility. The only way I can describe our short courtship is to say that what we found in attraction God doubly matched in confirmation. I remember vividly on my wedding day asking myself again, “Are you sure about this?” My answer came from a deep place where God had informed and matured me enough that I could know for sure. I walked down the aisle, humbled by what God had done and have continued to find more reasons to be sure about it. Forty years of them!
That’s why Ruth’s story of love and loss and displacement and beginning again is more than a love story to me. It reminds me that life is uncertain, but God is not.
Ruth was a Moabite graft into a Jewish family. Her family heritage was based on scandal. Her family line came from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter. (Gen. 19:34-37) I have always seen Ruth as someone who would not let family background prevent her from becoming a woman of integrity. I believe Ruth learned to recognize truth wherever she experienced it. Married to a Jewish man, living in a Jewish household; Ruth learned about Jehovah God, the Creator and Sustainer of life, who was also a God of love.
When Ruth’s husband died with the other men in that household, her life was drastically reduced. Ruth believed that life with her mother-in-law and her God would take her farther than anything she left in Moab. She took a risk of love, informed love, lived-out-before-her-eyes love. It was that risk that that saved her life and provided another thread to weave the genealogy that would bring us Jesus.
No other story in the Bible reminds me better than Ruth’s that a lifetime commitment to a God of unfailing love is no risk. Risk is when you opt for self-determination over God-following.
Ruth’s love story is deeper than the love between a man and a woman. It is a love story of eternal implications. It is a story of possibility become promise and promise become greater possibility.
My lessons from Ruth have informed both my marriage and my relationship with God in these ways:
1. God writes the best love stories.
Ruth wasn’t trying to change her family story; Ruth was trying to survive. But God used her vulnerability, her love and respect for Naomi, and her simple trust in the religious beliefs she had not grown up with to give her and Naomi a life they could never have had without God. Always let God write the plot line of your story. Manipulation and self-determination are enemies of the redemption God brings into any story.
2. God invented faithfulness.
No human relationship will ever match the faithfulness God can bring. But get the order right. A lifetime commitment to God brings you all the faithfulness you need to take your own risk on love. Commit to God first. Always.
If you want to take a wider look at the story of Ruth to find your own lessons, click the strip below to get a one-page Bible Study. And if you do, let me know what you learn.
Picture: Nick Fewings