Like every other little girl in my Sunday school class, I wanted to find a Bible story heroine to emulate. Esther was too fancy and dramatic for me. My sister already shared judge Deborah’s name so I couldn’t choose her. Sarah laughed at God—probably not a good example to follow. And then, I met Ruth.
She shared my grandmother’s name. She was loyal, persistent, faithful, trusting, and lovely. In times of difficulty rather than choose the security of her father’s home and possible remarriage, she bound herself to Naomi. Why would she do that? Naomi freed her, but Ruth persisted. Why would Ruth choose to go to Bethlehem and possibly never return to her people? Why would Ruth choose to be the distrusted foreigner and the willing servant of Naomi? Why would Ruth choose Yahweh?
I didn’t know. I wanted to know. And so every year, I come back to the story of Ruth. And each time, I love her more. To me, Ruth lives out the definition of a Proverbs 31 woman although for the majority of her story we only know her as a widow. Life has been hard for her; yet, she still chooses to trust in Naomi and ultimately Yahweh.
My sophomore year at Bethel sitting under a mosquito net in Jarabocoa, Dominican Republic, I threw myself into the Bible. Rather than being a part of the Bethel experience like all of my friends, I lived with a Dominican family, struggled with a new language, and taught preschoolers in this new language. It was hard. I thought I would love every second of it. I didn’t. Paul’s letters comforted me even from 2000 years away. And Ruth, she gave me perspective.
I saw her working the fields of Boaz missing her family and the land where she was accepted. I saw Ruth’s tears that surely sprinkled the ground of the fields in her weaker moments as she realized that she would never return to Moab. When people called her cruel names, I recognized her resolute tensing of jaw and her eyes trained forward. I felt joy bloom in my own heart as Boaz showed her favor.
And I knew that in less than three months, I would return to my family, my country, my comfort zone—but forever leave Ruth in her foreign land. No longer would I deal with culturally confusing and bemusing things, but Ruth was destined to continue her struggle. Yet, Ruth had new hopes and dreams founded in this land where she would still always be stamped a foreigner simply because of her physical appearance. Ruth was different. So was I—in the D. R. She comforted me with her steadfastness. She set an example of cheerful obedience. She caused me to ask the question, “Would I voluntarily leave my family and culture forever to follow God?”
I don’t know. I do know that I desire to surrender the entirety of my life to Yahweh. If that means truly fulfilling the meaning of the name Barbara, so be it. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we, with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” I want to live a life unveiled before man and God so that all may see my transformation into His image.
Ruth lived out quiet surrender of her own desires. For most of my life, I have hated the word “surrender”. To me, it was weakness. To me, it meant allowing others to call you mean names. No, I wanted to be a strong, independent woman. Imagine my surprise when I looked over my life and realized that every good thing in my life came after I surrendered.
Ruth surrendered her old life. She resigned whatever reputation she had in her own land. Ruth submitted her hopes of marriage to a Moab man when she left. She yielded to her mother-in-
law’s dreams of home. Voluntarily, Ruth relinquished the security of her culture.
God noted all of this. He raised her up. He gave her Boaz. He blessed their marriage
with children. And then, God permitted her to be a part of the bloodline for Jesus.
When I see Ruth’s life and her voluntary surrender, I recognize a woman that I want to emulate. As a side note, Ruth’s name means “friendship” stemming from Hebrew. I wonder if her name was always Ruth or if she was renamed.