I will be the first to admit that my mind spends most of its time hovering around a fictional community in the center of Iowa. But sometimes other stories creep to the top and remind me that they need to be written.
Last year I read through the Bible and when I got to the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, my imagination took off. I gave chase, finally caught up with it, and this short story was the result. It is one of my favorite pieces so far.
In the Old Testament, we read of Naomi and her pain … how she changed her name from Naomi, which means ‘pleasant,’ to Mara, which means ‘bitter.’ The words Ruth spoke to Naomi – Entreat me not to leave you, nor to return from following you … – are familiar words in wedding ceremonies. Ruth is the mother of Obed, whose son Jesse was the father of David, the greatest King of Israel.
I don’t presume to tell of people whose descendant will be the savior of the world, but I love the story of Naomi’s transformation, which comes full circle in Ruth 4:15, just after Obed is born to Ruth. The women say of the boy, “He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (NIV). The story goes on to say that “Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him” (Ruth 4:16).
This short story is a contemporary re-imagining of the Biblical story of Ruth. In it, Diane Greenwood Muir, author of the Bellingwood series, explores the deep connection that love creates in friends.
Naomi has experienced everything from exhilarating joy to paralyzing grief and yet, her life is constantly renewed by the steadfast love that comes from her closest friend. Ruth has sacrificed a great deal – her homeland and the life she knew – to stay with Naomi when circumstances should have pulled them apart.
As Ruth begins a new life, with a new husband and family, Naomi finds that she has been given a great gift – an understanding of the way God fulfilled His promise to care for her, no matter what. When He seems so far away, we find Him in those who continue to love us.