Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ruth’s Legacy: The Calling of a Wife and Mother

I started my notes on this post on Nov. 5, while at my daughters’ cross-country meet. I had actually felt called upon to writing about Ruth while doing a mini-series on Callings back in September. I have to admit I was not very excited about the prospect. Ruth was a good girl and nothing very exciting happened to her. Unlike Esther, whose tale is highly dramatic. (She has always been my favorite – but I’ll have to save her for another post. See how I really don’t want to write about Ruth? And yet I feel compelled to.)

Wait just a minute here. Did I say nothing exciting ever happened to Ruth? How about becoming a widow, leaving your country with your mother-in-law, changing your religion, being thrust into a totally new culture, and then having to find a husband to take care of you and your mother-in-law? All this is told so succinctly, in such a matter-of-fact fashion, that you have to stop and re-read to let it all sink in.

After re-reading Ruth’s brief biography – which is only four chapters long – I knew I was going to need some time to thoroughly dissect it. For she was simple and good, and yet so much complexity lay underneath her actions, which were further complicated by distinct cultural morays. And her life account ends immediately after she gives birth to Obed, as if that was the sum total of her existence. Not exactly what we modern mothers want to hear, is it?

Then I thought of my own family tree. I have the advantage of having had young parents and grandparents, who could remember several generations back. I have recorded their names, countries, and careers, if any. What stories have I heard about them? Most of them relate to the romance that led to the marriages, and the subsequent children they had. After all, that is what a family tree is.

I believe Ruth’s place in the Jesse Tree is the primary reason for her inclusion in the Old Testament. She most likely had a wonderful life, having a loving husband who held a good position in the community. She may have gone on to do many fulfilling things. We don’t hear about that because it is not pertinent to her role in the ancestry of Jesus.

There are many days when we mothers may feel as if we were cut out for much more than picking up after the house, breaking up fights between siblings, and making dinner. It is then that we must freeze that moment in time and fit it into a larger timeline. Imagine that one day on the timeline of your whole life, from birth to (hopefully) old age. How many years out of your life will you actually spend caring for children? Perhaps 20 – a quarter of your life. Now imagine that upon this quarter of your life rests your legacy – what your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be told about you. The other three-quarters can be used as you wish. That sounds like a real bargain.

Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to dissect the story of Ruth any further. I have gleaned from her story all I need to at this point in my life. Perhaps when I am older I will read it again and find something else.

Ruth and Boaz are symbolized on the Jesse Tree as a symbol of wheat. The suggested readings are Ruth 1:16; 2:2, 8, 10-12; 4:13-14

Painting: “Ruth Gleaning.” James Tissot, 1896-1900. Christian Theological Seminary

1 comment:

Loren Christie said...

and...imagine seeing into the future the generations of children that are born as a result of your "yes" to motherhood. This is a very thoughtful post, and pertinent to me. I grumble sometimes about some aspects of motherhood. So, thank you.

P.S. Artichokes are easy to eat. You scoop out the stuffing, and bite off the ends only (of the leaves). Then, when you get to the heart, you scrape off the fuzzy stuff. Sounds barbaric, but it's just a vegetable.