“Give respect to your father and mother, for without them you wouldn’t be here. And don’t neglect them when they grow old. Embrace the truth and hold it close. Don’t let go of wisdom, instruction and life-giving understanding. When a father observes his child living in godliness, he is ecstatic with joy! So may your father’s heart bust with joy and your mother’s soul be filled with gladness because of you.” Proverbs 23:22-25
Today my second mom, Janet, shared from the heart about love and relationships as an “in-law.” If you haven’t already, please take a moment afterward to read her story “Through the Eyes of a Mother-In-Law.” It inspired me, this morning, to highlight one of my favorite biblical figures. In fact, her book in the Old Testament is only one of two named after women in the entire Bible. She overcame pain and social status to live out a very important plan for her life. Of course, I am referring to Ruth.
If you aren’t familiar with the narrative of Ruth, you can find it in Ruth, chapters 1-4. As a short introduction to the story, we find a woman named Naomi, married with two sons, leaving her home country in Judah due to a famine. They travelled to Moab, were they decide to plant roots, and in the meantime her husband passed away. Her sons then take local Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth, before themselves passing away. So Naomi is left in a foreign country without her beloved husband and sons. She knows no other option but to return back to Judah and pleads with her daughter-in-laws to stay behind and live full and happy lives. Orpah eventually concedes, but Ruth could not bear to leave Naomi’s side.
Imagine yourself in Ruth’s shoes. She was given permission by Naomi to stay in Moab, her homeland and a place of familiarity. Yet, she chooses to leave her birth family, travel to a foreign country with little to her name, and build a new life for herself and her mother-in-law. I have to tell you, I adore Janet, but had those been the circumstances for us, it would be a very tough decision. Yet Ruth doesn’t even hesitate.
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
What a beautiful image of love. What a heart to strive toward.
I know for many women, the relationship with their mother-in-law may be a strained one. But no matter your situation, we can all learn a lesson from the selflessness and compassion Ruth had for Naomi. With this weekend being Mother’s Day, I challenge you to take one step, whether big or small, toward reconciliation. A coffee date, card, or phone call from you directly (rather than your husband or son) could be a catalyst for healing. Even if it is not reciprocated at first, you may be paving the way for a restored relationship with blessings in disguise. If you continue to read on in Ruth, you will see how God rewarded her wholehearted faith with these kind of unexpected blessings in Bethlehem.