“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.” (Ruth 1:1)
I found myself musing over the book of Ruth this past week, a very rich text known to most Christians. We know how Elimelek in order to escape famine, and secure the preservation of his family left Bethlehem and sojourned in Moab.
We know that not long after they arrived in Moab Elimelek died. Naomi his wife was left to raise their two sons in a strange land. The sons went on to marry Moabite women and within the space of ten years both sons died. Tragic!
Noami now decides to return to Bethelem and entreats her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab with their families. Orpah conceded and returned to her family but Ruth insisted on sticking by Naomi.
Upon her return to Bethlehem her people were surprised to see her. “Could this be Naomi?” the women exclaimed to which she replied,
“Don’t call me Naomi,…Call me Mara, because … I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1: 20-21)
Here is what struck me, Naomi left with her family to escape a famine, a period characterized by extreme scarcity, shortage, lack, deficiency, want, insufficiency, I could go on with the adjectives but you get the point. They left home in pursuit of MORE. So isn’t it surprising that upon her return she admits to having left FULL but returned empty?
I by no means wish to trivialize a famine nor am I ignoring the fact that the dichotomy with which she describes her circumstances was in reference to two distinct things. I’ll get back to this later. Now, Naomi’s story made me ponder expressed sentiments I see fuelling a mission that is growing increasingly common among my peers. A notion that one must leave this country in pursuit of better and more.
“Things and times are too hard in this country”
“Our currency has no value”
I want a house on the hill and staying here won’t get me that”
I want a job that is more fulfilling”
I hasten to say I hold no judgement over those who are of this mind-set. I simply wish to challenge us not to allow an area of perceived lack to be the rudder that charts our entire course at whatever the cost. We all have areas of insufficiency in our lives, for some it’s our careers, “I thought I’d be further along at this stage of my life.” “I thought I would have accomplished more by now”, common refrains. For others it is our marital status or bank account balances. Regardless of the area of insufficiency, I guarantee you if you were to audit your entire life you would find that true wealth and prosperity abounds towards you!
It’s the human condition; the grass is always greener on the other side, that’s often until we get to the other side. Just this past week I was reminded of that, when I stopped by one of my favourite bakeries to pick up a guilty treat (only I felt no guilt). I surveyed the display and then made my selection. When the lady handed me the box I peeked in and immediately handed it back and told her I wanted one of the bigger slices. She claimed they were all the same size but I insisted, so we both went over to the display where she placed my slice of cake back with all the others. To my surprise and slight embarrassment they were indeed all the same size. The moral of this story is that you may very well find that life on the planes can be as equally satisfying and perhaps even advantageous to living on the hill (think traffic, price of petrol, wear and tear on your vehicle). And that what you leave behind in your pursuit of more may very well leave you wanting.
Back to Naomi’s contrasting description of her state at the set time of the famine. What it suggests is that upon reflection she realized that what she possessed in Bethlehem during the famine was of far greater value than the quality of life experienced in Moab, where there was food. My conclusion on the matter is this, be ambitious, aim high, pursue your dreams but while doing so, do not ignore how full your life already is! Count your blessings. In all things, give thanks. Be content in whatever state you find yourself. Know that all things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose.