An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Twelve



My Aunt Eileen, me, my mom, circa 1968

Then she [Naomi] started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
    and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Ruth 1:6-18 – NRSV

Sometimes the ties between women in the same family can be remarkably strong and resilient. The Old Testament book of Ruth tells the story of two such women — tired, old Naomi, beat-up by life and loss, and her faithful, kind-hearted daughter-in-law, Ruth. It’s one of the most beautiful books in all of scripture and the story it tells is rich and layered. Pieces of it even show up in the lineage of Jesus, found in chapter 1 of Matthew’s gospel.

Many writers have told and re-told the stories of the women in that family tree — five of them altogether, each one a surprise. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. One taught a powerful lesson about faithfulness to a patriarch of ancient Israel, one was taken advantage of by a powerful king, one was commissioned to bear the son of God, and three of these women, Ruth included, were not part of Israel at all, yet here they are, on this all-important list, marked out for us to see, highlighted at a time in history when women’s names were seldom included in any genealogy. 

Ruth, the Moabite, became a mother in Israel, great-grandmother to King David, ancestor to Jesus. And all of that happened because Ruth chose to stick with the mother she knew, the mother of her dead husband, the woman who had taken her in and taught her about marriage and life and faith. Ruth commits herself to the older woman, and to her country and most importantly, to her God, the God of Israel. And she does it with some of the most beautiful words ever written in the pages of any book, anywhere. “Entreat me not to leave thee. . . ” goes the KJV, and the words that follow have found their way into more wedding ceremonies than can be counted.

It’s a promise, a pledge, a step into the future. And it’s offered in love and respect and full-throated, open-hearted commitment. The words of Ruth have worked their way into the psyches of much of modern christendom. But sometimes I wonder if we fully appreciate what they mean. Am I willing to leave everything that’s familiar and follow hard after the God of Israel? 

Oh, I hope so.

El Shaddai, Sustainer and Defender, thank you for the story of Ruth and Naomi, for their commitment to one another and to you. Help us, O Lord, to follow where you lead even when it feels scary and uncertain. Even ‘to the ends of the earth,’ O Lord. Even there. 

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


  1. Pondering your prayer today.