Bitter to Better
Last week my connect group continued talking about Ruth; however, this week we sort of focused a little more on Naomi. Naomi’s bitterness really caught my attention in the last week or so. We have all gone through those experiences where we thought God had somehow wronged us.
For Naomi it was losing her husband and two sons. She was left in a land ravaged by famine, alone with two daughters-in-law. I would like to tell you I would be steadfast like Ruth. The truth is many of us are more like Naomi or Orpah. Orpah turns tail and goes home. She goes back to what she knows, her comfort zone. Naomi gets mad. When a woman is mad she gets bitter. If we are really honest, ladies we do bitter very well. Eventually, Naomi’s bitterness melts into hope. We often say love conquers all, but I think hope is what actually conquers. Hope for something better.
Hope Precedes Faith
When I went through my valley early this year it was hope that lead me back to church. I cannot say at that point it was faith. It was hope that leaning on God would get me through everything I was facing. (Crisis Christian moment) Hope of a major life changing encounter lead me to rededicate my life to Christ. I started with about half a mustard seed of faith. (Seriously, you probably can’t even see ½ a mustard seed.) Hope pulled me in, faith got me through.
During Festival of Life, most people who attended showed up hoping to win a prize. They hoped to witness something or to quell their curiosity. Hope lead them to the event. What they witnessed sparked that tiny little ember of faith and everything else grew from there.
Naomi, even in her bitterness, had hope that leaving Moab and returning to her home land would improve her circumstance. That spark of hope eventually leads to her instructing Ruth in how to approach Boaz at the threshing room floor. Hope precedes the faith she places in Boaz to redeem the family. Hope has a great deal of power.
Faith Precedes Boldness
I can say in the present I have faith. It’s much more than a mustard seed these days. However, there are some areas of my life that I am in the hope stage. I know God has the situation under control. I pray about it but my self-doubt holds me back. That is where boldness has to come in. Naomi was bold in her instructions to Ruth. Ruth was obedient and bold to follow those instructions. Based on the things I have read about the threshing room floor encounter, this endangered Ruth’s reputation. Imagine if you saw a woman entering a man’s home or business late at night, all dolled up…what are you going to think? We all know what we would think, it has become common place in our time, but in Ruth’s day…she could have been stoned. STONED people. She was risking her life in her obedience…in her boldness.
The biggest obstacle to boldness is doubt. Doubt is not uncommon. Doubt is often translated as “I can’t” in case you are wondering. Even in Ruth’s story, I am certain Orpah turned around partly because of her doubts about her future. Moses had so much self-doubt he argued with God about going to Pharaoh. Before you get all shocked and awed about someone arguing and doubting God…you have done and so have I. I have yelled and shouted at God in my grief. I have blamed him in my darkness. In faith I have laughed…LAUGHED at some of the things I felt he was guiding me toward. Comments come to mind like, “Seriously, you want me to do what?” or “God, this is me…I can’t do what you ask.” Very quickly I find myself corrected. God seems to like having me “voluntold” to do things. I will feel this pull toward something and next thing I know someone has put it in my lap and I have no idea how it happened. (Seriously, I am still trying to figure out how we went from sitting three rows from the back of the church to the second row and I am so involved with so many things in less than a year.)
God Knows What We Need
Here is the great thing about God, he knows our need before we do. He supplies our every need. With Moses he sent Aaron to help a brother out. Even as Moses was arguing, God had the plan in place to provide Moses with a helper. Even in his doubt and insubordination, God utilizes Moses for great things. God did the same for me. As I was starting to engage with various church activities, God sent my support. Our first real conversation was just in August and she feels like a sister to me. God sent me Erin and I am so very thankful…for her, her daughter and her Mom. My relationship with this family of women has cultivated boldness in me. The fellowship we have shared has opened me to the move of God in my life. I’m not sure if she’s Moses and I’m Aaron or the other way around, but we are certainly giving support to one another.
In our Growth Track program, we talk about the four essential habits of disciples or Christians if you prefer: Bible Study, Prayer, Fellowship and Giving. Hope lead to faith and in faith I have been cultivating these habits. Faith lead to boldness. I blog about my spiritual journey. I talk about and share my faith. I invite people to church. God knows what I need before I ask. God has made provision for me. He has given me healing. He has blessed me and my family. He has protected me. He sent me a dear friend and supporter.
I have been bitter. Years of ugly bitterness. Most of the time I could hide it under my quirky personality but I was bitter. Change my name to “Mara” bitter. I was angry with God for stuff he had nothing to do with. God’s been patient with me. So when I wake up in the morning…I wake in hope, faith and love.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7