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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Unexpected Relationship Coach

"When life happens to you, the worst thing you can do is stop holding onto God."
Holy Ghost Quote

Yet, that is exactly the approach Naomi takes in the book of Ruth. Widowed, childless in old age, embattled and bitter, she begins the trek back to Bethlehem from Moab, the place where she had been stationed for at least a decade due to her family leaving Bethlehem during famine and her husband choosing to marry "heathen women" and set up house after their father's death. Naomi changed her name to Mara, which meant bitter, feeling as though God had dealt her a bad hand in life.

You may be feeling the same way, as if the wind has been knocked out of you, and just when you manage to steady yourself, you find another set of circumstances pressing in on you: bills, loans, foreclosure, children who no longer seek your advice but continually look to you as their bailout plan. You may even be like Naomi, in the middle of a forced or difficult transition.

They say misery loves company but clearly that was not the case for Naomi, who urged both of her newly widowed daughters-in-law to return to their own families. When Naomi returned to her hometown, she wasn't the same. I would venture to say that the real Naomi was buried underneath some anger, frustration, hopelessness, and grief. Meeting someone in the middle of relocating their household doesn't give you a good picture of who they really are. Yet, in all this Naomi became a most unlikely relationship coach. 

Ruth, the Moabitess had returned with Naomi, taking the God of the Jews as her very own. I must ask this question: can people see enough God in you even when your feelings are all over the place to follow the God you serve? Most young women I know would have taken one look at Naomi and headed in the opposite direction. I have come to realize that sometimes God positions us to make the bitter better. Left to her own devices, who knows what may have come of Naomi?

Even in Naomi's grief, she sought joy, wellness, health, and comfort for Ruth (read Ruth 3). What a mentor! Ruth wasn't the "younger woman" in the way of Naomi's Cougar escapades--no, Naomi saw Ruth as a way to extend the family line and preserve the family for future generations. She didn't see Ruth as a rival but as a reservoir of support and care to her. Naomi was still of marriageable age, but that was not her aim in life. Instead, she patiently coached Ruth into a blessed life, so blessed, that she became apart of the lineage of Christ. 

Naomi taught Ruth some lessons that I will admit I took hold of myself as a single woman: 

1. Prepare to be found
2. Pursue the directions God gives
3. Perceive the right timing
4. Position Yourself
5. Wait until he acknowledges you

There is nothing like finding the right person and you are not ready. It's like finding the perfect prom dress the night after the prom. The timing is all off. The same thing can happen in relationships. You may not be ready to handle to responsibility or the attitude of selflessness that is required in a  serious relationship or in a marriage. 

Ruth didn't let the generational gap between her and Naomi be a barrier but a bridge. She listened to the advice given her. The method was not traditional due to the fact there was no male to stand in to negotiate for Ruth, but even in that God maintained and protected her reputation. Like Naomi, God can use your harsh reality in His hands and your life experiences as wisdom to guide a younger generation. Don't shut down the wisdom you could pour into the younger generation because of a wounded past. Let God heal you so you can help others by your testimony. Once Naomi realized that Boaz could redeem her family's name, she chose to be faithful to the purpose of uniting Boaz and Ruth, rather than drown in her grief. 

As a result of her coaching, Naomi (who I believe represented the Holy Spirit) was able to guide Ruth (the Bride) to Boaz (representative of Christ, our Kinsman redeemer) and God blessed the union. I thank God for every relationship coach that entered my life, that showed what to do and what not to do. I am a better wife because of it!