Ruth’s Story (as fictionalized by Valda)
My heart swells with pride as I watch my mother-in-law hold my newborn son, Obed. Her gnarled, wrinkled fingers caress his soft cheek with adoration. His quiet mewling sounds voice his appreciation of her touch.
The old women of the community gather around her exclaiming, “Praise be to God, Naomi has a son!” For they know, as well as I, how many years Naomi has suffered and how long it has been since we’ve seen her smile.
She’d had such a beautiful smile. When I first married Mahlon, his mother Naomi was one of the happiest women I knew. My father-in-law Elimelech doted on her and praised her as a great example of a godly wife and mother. They had been living in Moab, my homeland but not theirs. Driven from Bethlehem by a famine that threatened to kill them all, Naomi had moved there with her husband and two sons. She welcomed Orpah and me into her home with open arms.
“I’m so happy to finally have daughters!” she exclaimed. She touched my arm and said softly so others couldn’t hear, “I honestly wasn’t sure a Moabite woman would be good enough for my son, but you please me very much. You make my son happy.”
I felt a heated blush move up my neck to my face. I knew it hadn’t been easy for Naomi to live so far from her home. She had left behind her friends, extended family, and her Temple to live with foreigners. I made it my goal to help her feel loved and cherished in Moab, so they would stay.
“Promise me that you won’t make me leave my home like that,” I often said to my husband after seeing the homesickness in Naomi’s eyes.
He would stroke my hair and whisper, “Never, my love. This is our home now.”
My throat fills up with unshed tears whenever I allow my mind to drift there. Mahlon. My husband; my first love.
Naomi’s face always lit up when her sons were around. She wore her pride in her warm smile. She waved worried goodbyes as they journeyed for business, calling long after they were out of earshot, “God be with you and protect you, my sons.” It was for them that she lived so far from home; for their security.
I only dreamt of being such a good mother. Mahlon and I had been married for almost ten years and no child had been conceived. I knew Naomi was disappointed that neither I nor Orpah had made her a grandmother yet. I hoped and prayed that this would change soon.
But my god Chemosh wasn’t listening. I envied Naomi’s faith in her God. While she worried about her sons, she would kneel after they left and place them in her God’s care. Then she would go about her business believing that He would protect them. Meanwhile, I bit my nails and watched the horizon for Mahlon’s silhouette the whole while he was gone. I didn’t have the same trust in my god.
When tragedy struck and the rider galloped to the door with the devastating news of death, it wasn’t Naomi’s sons who weren’t returning. It was Elimelech. Her wail of grief pierced my soul. For weeks I tended to a mother-in-law that I didn’t recognize. She was a shell of her former self. She barely ate, and barely slept. Orpah and I did our own work and hers too.
I rubbed her back and hummed soothing tunes from my childhood as she lay on her side, her tear ducts empty and her heart in pieces. “Call on your God, Naomi. He will comfort you, right?”
We all encouraged her in our own ways. Mahlon and Kilion tried to make her laugh. Orpah cooked her favorite meals. I prayed to Chemosh, and secretly to Naomi’s God too. I suspected He was the more powerful of the two. And finally, she began to shuffle around and to resume her daily routine. I missed her smile and her cheerful disposition. Her name, Naomi, meant sweetness. I wondered if we’d see that side of her anymore.
Soon Mahlon and Kilion had to leave again. They both took extra time to say goodbye to their mother, recognizing her frailty. I tried not to feel jealous of my husband’s attention to her. Our relations had been strained lately while our house mourned his father. I missed my husband.
When I heard the horse’s feet pound toward our house for the second time, an intense fear gripped my chest. My hands shook as I opened the door to the lone rider. His words knocked me to the ground. The animalistic sound that tore through my throat brought Orpah running to the door.
“Ruth, what is the news?” She crouched beside me and wrapped her arms around my trembling body. Her warmth seeped into my pores but brought me no comfort. It was my responsibility to break her heart as well.
“They’re gone, Orpah. They’re both gone.”
Her face went white. “Gone? What do you mean?”
I nearly choked on the word as it hitched on a sob. “Dead. They’re both dead, sister.” I held her tight and cried until my throat was sore. She did the same.
“We have to tell Naomi,” Orpah whispered.
This would crush her. I wasn’t sure she had the strength to bear it. I found myself praying again to her God.
She tore her clothes and fell, laying as dead on the floor for long minutes. We bathed her forehead with cool cloths to try and rouse her.
Needless to say, the next weeks were horrendous. Naomi grew thin and frail in front of our eyes. But this time, Orpah and I had no comfort to give. We mourned too. Villagers stayed away from the house of death, believing it to be cursed. I believed it too.
Then one morning I awoke with surprise to the sound of Naomi moving about. She was packing all of her belongings.
“What are you doing?” I asked sleepily.
She didn’t stop making piles as she emptied the contents of the house onto the floor. “There is nothing here for me now, Ruth. I’m going home.”
“Home? To Bethlehem? Is the famine over? Is it safe to go back?” There was a mad look in her eye that concerned me.
“Yes, of course.” She waved her hand in the air, indicating that this response was to all my questions. “God has punished me for coming here. What more will He take from me? I cannot stay one moment more.”
I began to help her with her things. Then I started packing my own.
“Where will we live? Do you still have a home there?”
She froze. Turning her head slowly to look at me for the first time in weeks, she said, “Ruth, go back to your father’s house.”
Orpah drifted into the room then, rubbing her eyes. They widened as she took in the scene and its implications.
Naomi grasped one of my hands and one of Orpah’s. The squeeze was bony but strong.
“May the Lord show kindness to you both as you have shown to me and my sons. You will always be my beloved daughters, but I have nothing more to offer you. Go home. It’s time.”
She kissed us both on the cheek and wiped our tears with her fingers. “You are young enough to marry again. Go find new husbands and have their children. You both deserve that.”
Our response was unanimous. “No!”
“We will go with you to Bethlehem,” I said, with Orpah nodding her agreement vigorously.
But she shook her head. “No, go home. I have no more sons to give you as husbands. I have no husband, no sons, no money; I have nothing. God has turned His back on me. It is as the people here whisper about me: I am cursed. I will return home alone and broken. You have been wonderful daughters to me. I will forever be grateful.”
We all cried as we held each other, although our tears should have run out long ago. Orpah kissed us both and went back to her family.
I looked at my heartbroken, fragile mother-in-law and knew I couldn’t leave her. She really had no one. Just me. I would not desert her.
“I will not go,” I said stubbornly. “I am your daughter. You cannot send me away.”
Naomi sighed and shook her head as if I was the mad one. She pointed in the direction that Orpah had gone. “Look, your sister-in-law has some sense. She’s gone back to her people and her gods. You do the same.”
I stared her in the eyes. “I respectfully decline your offer, Mother. I will follow you wherever you go and live where you live. Your people will be my people and your God, my God. I will die where you die, and I will be buried there. Only death will part us now. Let us make haste and speak of this no longer.”
My face burned and my heart raced. I’d never stood up to Naomi before, and her eyes did not reveal her emotions.
A single tear rolled down her cheek. “A more faithful daughter is not to be found. We will do this together then. Be prepared for hardship. With no husband or kinsman-redeemer, life will not be easy. We will have to fight to survive.”
I smiled. “Then you’re going to have to start eating more, Mother. You couldn’t fight a flea like that.”
The corner of her mouth twitched, but smiling was still beyond her capability.
Stay tuned for the riveting end to Ruth’s story of faithfulness. Although the beginning paragraphs are a spoiler to how the tale ends!
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One thought on “Faithful”
Lovely! Well done 👍👍💕💕
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