The Barren Women of the Bible series continues with Naomi, of the book of Ruth. Naomi did initially have a husband and two children, but she lost them all. In feeling the weight of this she said, "Call me Mara (lit. Bitter), for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me." A familiar line of thought, any one? Perhaps it is "better to have loved and lost" as the saying goes, but Naomi ended up where many of us start out - a place of tremendous grief. She was already in (or nearly in) that biologically-forced barrenness phase we call post-menopause. There wasn't even room for a insensitive comment from someone ill with verbal diarrhea like, "well, go remarry and have more children!" Unfortunately, this scenario of losing both one's husband and children happens all too regularly. There are many Naomi's in the world.
At the time, Ruth was also a widow and childless. Naomi encouraged Ruth to go back to her own kin, back to her own mother, but Ruth pledged to stay and continue on with Naomi as her daughter (in-law). After a little while, Ruth ends up marrying Boaz, Naomi's "kinsman" through her husband's side (traditionally believed to be her late husband's nephew). Let that sink in: Boaz is not a close relation to Naomi "by blood", not even "legally" by an active marriage, but by a marriage covenant closed by death. The same goes for her ties to Ruth. Ruth had been free to go back to her own homeland.
Naomi's story ends like this:
"And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him." Ruth 4:14-15
Naomi's "family" did not come from her own womb or close bloodline. You could say in this case, it was the childless widow who was adopted! Naomi's "ending" reminds me of Psalms 113:9, "He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD." Many people want to box that verse in narrowly, as a promise that suits their biological wishes, but Naomi's story and stories like hers show "family" and "motherhood" are not bound to one's marrying and bearing children. Stories like this hint at how much wider and higher God's thoughts are. Stories like this inspired our motto, "An open heart is greater than an open womb."
God is eager to place us in a loving family, but it may not be what we expected. Our family may be likened to a profound allegory, our family may not even be under the same roof, but that doesn't mean we don't have a real family. Others may want to nay say, but it's God's stamp of approval that counts, and in cases like Naomi's He shows the "family" stamp doesn't require having the same eyes, mannerisms, or hair color, etc. It's God who defines family. And it is God Who blesses us with such people.
I'd love to hear your stories, if God brought you to a family "the Naomi way"!
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