Monday, May 29, 2017

It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

I woke up this morning hoping to feel refreshed and myself.  I haven't quite been my version of myself in well over two months. As I stood in the bathroom staring at my new swollen eye I found myself crying out to the Lord.  "I am tired.  Lord, no matter how much rest I get I am tired."  I pulled myself together and continued to pray.  And then like a sweet whisper I felt compelled to read Ruth 1.  So, out of semi obedience, I went to gather my bible and my journal. And after playing on my kindle for a while I finally sat down to read.

Ruth 1 begins with a family leaving Bethlehem and taking a short journey into Moab (enemy territory).  They left their home because there was a famine, Israel had no leadership, and the inhabitants were running a muck. And they feared for their lives.    Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, pack up their things and left.  I am assuming that Elimelech and Naomi were fearful that their sons would fall into a godless life if they continued to raise them in this unlawful environment.  I also think that is was a very spontaneous decision to move away from God and their community.  I say this because there is no mention of Elimelech or Naomi seeking God's will through prayer.  It seems like the two of them were having a moment of not trusting in God's plan.  

Seeking God's will can be scary and uncertain.  Sometimes the elements of His perfect plan seem to be not so perfect in our perception.  When troubles come our way we have three options.  We can choose to go through the fire, run from the fire, or become a pyro.  Well maybe this isn't the best fight, flight and flow picture but it's the one I felt fit for today.  If we choose to go through the fire we are most assuredly going to get burned.  And often we are left with scars and bitterness.  If we avoid the fire we will probably miss an important lesson God has purposed for us.  But if we stay in the midst of the fire and allow God to refine us we learn to become masters over our tribulations.  

In Romans 8:28 God clearly tells us that He will take our circumstances and make them work together for our good and His glory!  And as I continued reading Naomi and Ruth's story I see how God did just that.  Naomi became a widow and single mom of two boys.  And I can somewhat relate to how she may have felt.  I was never a widow.  But I was a divorced mom of two girls and one boy.  And in the beginning of that time in my life I was afraid of what tomorrow held for my children.  I felt deflated, angry and ashamed.  I remember looking back on all the things I had done wrong and felt I was getting just what I had deserved.  My heart was broken and felt pretty empty at times.  How was I going to be able to give love to my children when I felt so unlovable?  But just as life went in forward motion for Naomi it went for me too.  Mahlon and Chilion married Moab women. They were married to their wives, Ruth and Orpah for about ten years.  And both of Naomi's sons died leaving her with two daughter-in-laws to provide for.  Naomi decided that she was going to return to the land of Judah because she heard that the Lord had been providing for His people. But Naomi told Orpah and Ruth that she was going alone.  She told the widows that she was unable to provide them with husbands from her house.  She kissed them good bye and thought she was free to go.  Orpah returned to her tribe.  However, Ruth clung to Naomi.  And here is where God revealed to me this day that circumstances can and will work together for our good and His glory. Naomi tried all that she could to persuade Ruth to go away.  But Ruth saw something in her mother-in-law.  "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you: For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, And there I will be buried.  The Lord do so to me , and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."  Ruth, a Moabite, came to know God through Naomi.  And Ruth wanted what Naomi had  even if it meant playing with fire.  She wanted to do whatever it took to go through the Refiner's fire.  I think Naomi was a little annoyed but she silently led the way to Bethlehem. 

They arrived in Bethlehem for the barley harvest.  At first I wondered why God thought it was so important that we know that they arrived during the barley harvest.  And so I looked up when that harvest occurs.  And it is sometime in April, before Passover.  Spring has sprung.  All things become brand new.  Naomi returned to her people as a changed women.  She was weathered, worn and bitter.  She wanted to be addressed as Mara because she felt that the Lord dealt very bitterly with her. She was depleted and needed to be replenished.  And she came during spring because she knew God's provision would be waiting.  And Ruth had a different transformation.  She took a blind leap of faith.  It would have been easier for her to return with Orpah to the Moab community.  They would have provided her with all the comforts of home.  But Ruth wanted more.  She wanted to have what Naomi had.  She wanted to know the God of the Israelites.  For her this spring took on a greater meaning.  It was this new beginning that compelled her to follow in faith. And pushing fear aside Ruth trusted Yahweh Yireh that He would give her a hope for the future. 

It's hard to say what would have been or could have been.  A family leaves their homeland to escape death. And all but one dies.  Three graves in enemy territory and three lonely widows all because of a lack of faith. I can tell you that I have seen how God has truly worked all things together for my good in spite of my lack of faith moments.  Even when I have decided, like Elimelech and Naomi, to take flight God doesn't leave me or forsake me.  He always provides a way back; a barley harvest in the spring.  Living by faith is not easy.  Most of the time our fear gets in the way.  We look ahead and see danger signs everywhere.  In order to honor God we must trust in Him.  We need to accept His promises and seek (obey) His word.  We need to walk by faith in spite of what the world around us looks like.  We need to walk by faith regardless of how we feel about the situations currently facing us.  We need to walk by faith and trust God no matter what the outcome.  When we live by faith we glorify God and we show God's love to a lost and lonely world.  And we also begin to build on our identity in Christ each time we take a step in faith. And through this faith I can be sure that in spite of illnesses, hardships and change I will be walking into a great big beautiful tomorrow.  

I pray that as we continue to seek His truths that we allow ourselves to be blessable.  When we have been living outside of faith it can be difficult to come before Yehweh Rapha and ask for healing.  Or Yahweh Nissi to bring us to victory in our daily battles. Or to come face to face with El Roi who has seen us in our filth.  But He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator and King of Glory and His love is deep for us.  I pray that we don't let our past  failures prevent us from stepping in faith and walking through the door of a beautifully blessed new day!