Monday, May 02, 2005

becoming Ruth

Have I been blind to God's vision? I can only assume this, since He has chosen to reveal it to me through other people. Perhaps because this new calling contradicts my very nature, I have been unable to see God's plan.

I am to become ... a "Ruth."

For the past year, I have been acting under God's command to be a pre-Isaac "Rebekah." To be a woman who lives one day at a time, doing God's purpose for that day, without concern for what the future holds. Now am I to switch role models? Am I to switch from a passive attitude to one of action? Can I?

Last week, my soul became burdened because of a certain phenomenon in today's Christian culture. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, wrote a two-part article titled "From Boy to Man--The Marks of Manhood." He sums up the situation by saying, "We now face the phenomenon of perpetual boyhood on the part of many males. Refusing to grow up, these young men function as boys well into their twenties--some even into their thirties and beyond. An extended male adolescence marks the lifestyles, expectations, and behavior of far too many young males, whose masculine identity is embraced awkwardly, if at all." According to Mohler, Biblical manhood is "a functional reality, demonstrated in a man's fulfillment of responsibility and leadership." His article ended with thirteen marks of Biblical manhood that would prepare young men for marriage, fatherhood, and church leadership.

You have all witnessed this phenomenon. You know it to be true. Does it bother you? Does it cause you to lose sleep? It did for me last week. Two questions kept probing my mind. First, have Christian young women somehow contributed to this phenomenon? And second, is there anything we can do to act as a catalyst to rectify the situation?

I asked my wise father for answers. He, himself, is struggling in his own church with men refusing to take on the responsibility of leadership. I emailed Dr. Mohler, hoping that he would have some insight. Nothing.

This past Monday evening, at my church's outreach program, I introduced my dilemma to my table of fellow-letter-writers. What are godly women to do to spur the "boys" in their lives toward manhood? An answer surfaced (suprisingly from one of the young men at the table). "Perhaps it is time that women 'pull a Ruth.'"

My mind floated back to the story of a young gentile widow living in a strage land with her mother-in-law. One of her deceased husband's relatives took an interest in her, cared for her needs, protected her, but it never occured to him to become her kinsman-redeemer (a close male relative who would take on the role of her husband). It was only until she approached him under the cover of darkness where he lay on the threshing floor, uncovered his feet, and pulled his cloak over her, and ASKED him to redeem her did he realize his destiny.

My mind balked at the prospect. Was it even godly what she had done? ... but wait a minute ... there is a whole book in the Bible devoted to her story. On one hand I yearn for today's Christian men to rise up to their potential and realize their desitiny as leaders on their own (Shouldn't it be inherent?!). And on that same hand, I cringe at the thought of pushing a man to do something that should be so obvious as his role. I fear the other hand, however. The hand of action. The hand of confrontation. The hand that Deborah, the judge of old Israel, used to push Barak into his leadership role in Israel's Army.

No, I couldn't do it.

The next morning I had completely tossed the "pulling a Ruth" idea aside. Imagine my surprise, though, when I read an email my mother had sent me that morning.

"Dear Christine,

Hi.  I hope that all is well!

I was doing some research on Ruth, which is our Bible study topic for four weeks, and I thought about this:

Ruth and Boaz knew each other.

They liked each other.

Ruth was interested in him.

He was friendly and nice to her, but nothing more.

She didn’t really know whether he was interested in her.

He didn’t know that she was interested in him.

He never made an attempt to have a deeper relationship.

Then . . .

Do you get where this is going?  It is not at all like the story of Rebecca.  Isaac and Rebecca is not the only model.


Of course, her email focused on the marriage aspect of the story. What mother doesn't eventually want an Obed (Ruth and Boaz's son)? I found the email amusing, ironic even, in light of the previous night's suggestion.

I decided to give her a call.

C: I don't know when the barley harvest is. What if I've missed it?

M: Pentecost is coming up. You could do it then.

C: Isn't that a little soon? When is Pentecost? Wait, let me look on my calendar. May 15. I think I'll wait till the next barley harvest comes along. So let's say, by some miracle of God, I meet Mr. Wonderful between now and May 15. What are you suggesting I do? I'm not going to sneak into his house, under the cover of darkness and lay down at the foot of his bed! You didn't raise me to be that kind of girl!

M: No, I suppose not. Maybe you should wait till the singles in your church plan a camping trip?

C: Ha, you know ... ironically, they are ... that weekend.

M: Well there you go, just wander over to his tent and unzip the bottom of his sleeping bag.

C: Ha ha ha ... Yeah, that will go over big. That's why we have chapereones!

Well, you can't blame her for trying to speed the courtship process along. I would be concerned if I were her, too. Is it natural to have a daughter who has never dated, or shown real interest in a particular potential mate?

This time I laughed off the suggestion of Ruth.

The following evening, however, I felt a heavy pit in my stomach. After teaching my 5th grade girls' missions class, Wednesday night, I slipped into the singles' Bible study. I peared over to the pastor's Bible to see what passage he was discussing ... and to my astonishment I read in the top left corner of the open page ...

... Ruth.

God had my attention.

I am now resigned to the fact that God has some plan for me in which I am to become a Ruth. I know that in my own power I could never accomplish such a thing. This is how I know that it is of God and not my own making.

Today's Sunday School lesson was about receiving visions from God. God forbid that I should be as the prophet's servant who could not see the armies of fires surrounding their enemies.

"Whatever I am destined to do, whether it's big or small, open my eyes to Your plan."


CraigS said...

Hmmm...I do not believe for a second that as attractive a girl as yourself lacks male attention.

What you mean is that the *right guy* is not showing interest.

Mary Anna said...

Hi there,

I am have entered into a friendship with a guy with a lot of gray area. A few minutes ago, I googled "pulling a Ruth" to try and figure out if I need to initiate a conversation about the direction of our relationship. I don't have my answer yet, but I really enjoyed your post, and especially your mom's wise words.

Thank you!
Mary Anna