One time, on an international bus ride, I was playing a question game with friends to pass the time. The question we had to answer was, “If you could be any person in the Bible, who would you choose?” When my friend answered Ruth, the reality of living Ruth’s life hit me like a ton of bricks.
Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, had lost every- thing: spouses, children, and belongings. With nothing to keep Naomi in Moab, she decided to return home to her own people, the Jews, whom she had abandoned previously because there was a famine. Since Naomi had nothing to offer Ruth, and since the Jews weren’t fond of Ruth’s nationality, Naomi encouraged her to stay in Moab, but Ruth refused.
Ruth put herself on the shelf to serve her mother-in- law. Ruth’s loyal love earned her the company of a bitter and hopeless mother-in-law. Not only was Naomi unpleasant, but the Jews shunned the two women when they first arrived in the new land. Ruth spent her days begging for grain in the hot sun, but she continued to love Naomi. If you’ve read the story, you know that Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law eventually paid off. Her hard work and loyalty caught the attention of a godly man who asked her to be his wife. Ruth and Boaz were the great-grandparents of King David and part of the lineage of Jesus.
When Ruth left her home with Naomi, she didn’t know that putting herself on the shelf would bring her such a legacy. When she was laboring under the scorching sun, begging for her next meal, she didn’t know that Boaz would rescue and marry her. She simply loved Naomi like Jesus loved us. And while Ruth appreciated the physical benefits of a husband, home, and influential position in society, I wonder if her mother’s escape from the claws of bitterness was a more precious gift. Ruth is a biblical picture of The Giving Tree. She found joy in giving herself so that Naomi could gain.
Ruth took a risk that paid off, but I wonder what fears she had to overcome to put herself on the shelf.
Would her loneliness increase?
Would she run out of love or energy?
Would Naomi ever appreciate her sacrifice?
Will there be a payoff? Should she even want or expect that?
Ruth put herself on the shelf and found victory over her fears. One of the human heart’s greatest needs is to feel loved, valued, and accepted, so putting ourselves on the shelf feels like a risk. Our sin self tells us to fill our void with the love of people around us. But what if the people we’re loving can’t reciprocate our love? What if God calls us to love a Naomi?
If we want to love our friends more than we love ourselves, we have to let Jesus fill our love void. We have to transition where we seek affection! We start to love each other more when we believe that giving is gaining, when we decide putting ourselves on the shelf is worth it, and finally, when we choose to believe the best about one another.
You have just read an exerpt from Sharie's newest book I Love You More (except when I don't) - Fighting to Keep Jesus First in the chapter I Love You More Than My Position. If you have enjoyed this and would like to continue reading you can purchase this book on Amazon and in the Store on this site.