Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Widows' Story: Step Two

In the Bible book of Ruth--God's story of widows--Ruth and Naomi provide powerful role models for widows today. Last Wednesday they revealed the first step to take in Ruth 1:6--they prepared to go home. From their example, we need to Prepare for the journey ahead; see where we're at and look at the direction we're pointed.

Naomi and Ruth also had each other. I don't think God intended us to make this journey alone. We need a walking partner. Do you have a Ruth or Naomi in your life? Are you a Ruth or Naomi to another woman? The next step to take in your journey to joy is this: Find one or more walking partners.

You might have more than one walking partner. Several women came in and out of my life during the first couple years of widowhood. And they weren't the ones I expected, the ones with the "strong Christian" reputations. It seemed like those happily married people had no idea what to do with me. They couldn't relate; I think they were scared of me! The women I was surprised to find in my life were the broken ones, the ones who knew suffering and grief. They knew that I'd survive. They weren't afraid to handle me.

I'll spotlight two of them today because they each had the determination of Ruth and Naomi. They were each named Laura, so I couldn't call then anything but my two Laura's.

Walking partners provide mutual support. My first Laura literally was my walking partner. I'd known her for a few years, but a month or two after Bruce died we began walking together every morning. She had some horrible situations of her own to deal with, we were both almost blinded by the pain of our different circumstances, but we had each other. Committed to putting one step in front of the other, we walked off the days, desperate to get through the calendar and put a safe distance between our broken hearts and the day our lives had changed forever. Some days Laura was the leader, the encourager, the stronger one; on other days I supported her like carrying the wounded off the battlefield. Study the book of Ruth; that's what Ruth and Naomi did for each other. Their every decision and every choice was for the other's best, but their love was unconditional and freely given.

Walking partners demonstrate uncommon courage. I met my other Laura just two months before Bruce died. She was on her second marriage, Bruce did their wedding, and we'd gone out to dinner with them. I hardly knew her, but after Bruce died, she began to draw me into her world of cystic fibrosis. She was in her 30's, a veteran survivor who had lost many friends to the disease. Since most people with cystic fibrosis died in their 20's at the time, Laura lived in constant diligence of her own condition. And WOW! DID SHE LIVE!

Laura grabbed life by the throat. With two kids from her first marriage, she was constantly on the go, racing to fill each day with activity and verve, like she was stocking up for weeks ahead when she'd be scheduled for hospital treatments that prolonged her life while jeapordizing her vital organs. She knew life was a short, precious and sacred trust. So there was nothing she wouldn't try: she'd had a career, birthed two babies, gone through a divorce, been a single mom. And now in her new marriage which she saw as a merciful gift from God, no diamond was too big, no beauty treatment too extreme, and no experience too embarrassing.

Yet, when she was in the hospital and one of her long-time cystic fibrosis friends was weakening and dying, it was Laura who would bathe them, get them homey, meaningful touches for the hospital room, and tell the family what they needed to hear. When I was wringing my hands with worry and fear about the next steps to take in my life, it was Laura who pushed me on with a sharp--"Why not? You've already lost everything!"

Seeing the grit and courage of my second Laura helped me understand Ruth and Naomi better. Once Ruth and Naomi started on their journey back to Bethlehem, it was no Sunday afternoon stroll. These two defenseless women walked about 50 miles through the same Judean wilderness where the shepherd David killed a lion and a bear. They slept under the stars during this 4 to 5 day trip, they carried everything they owned. When one or the other wanted to give up, I imagine a hard poke from the other urged them on with a stern logic: "You've already lost everything!"

My second Laura walked me back into life and a year later called me to her deathbed at the hospital where I witnessed her departure to eternal life. Cradled in the arms of her weeping husband, her son and daughter clinging to her and cryng, "No, no, no . . ." Laura slipped away. Heaven will never be the same. Her funeral was a celebration as we imagined Laura hitting the streets of gold, twirling around the first angel she saw and asking, "Where'd you get your hair done?"

Have your found your walking partners yet? At first you might not recognize them. They might challenge your preconceived ideas of strength and godliness; but in Christ, when we are weak, He is strong inside of us. Don't overlook people who are gifts from God just because they're not wrapped in the paper you expected.

Here are some clues for recognizing the walking partner(s) God might match you up with:
Is she available?
Has she known or is currently experiencing suffering?
Does she know God?
Can your relationship be mutually respectful give-and-take?

How to find and be a walking partner:
Ask God for wisdom to spot the women He has put in your life. His choices might surprise you, so that's why you need wisdom.
You don't need to form any sort of pact or agreement with your walking partner. Just enjoy the friendship. You might not recognize their impact upon you until you look back on the friendship in retrospect.
Seek to encourage her and fill her up rather than analyze what you receive from her.

Tell about your walking partner in the comments below, or use the comment box for any questions you have. Now phone someone and ask her if she'd like to go for a walk.


  1. Hi Feree,

    I thought this was beautiful and so insightful and wise. Could I post it on my blog and then link to your site? I think it is good for either women or men. Thank you for your ministry!

  2. Marlena, my friend, of course you may! It'd be an honor. God bless you, and I hope all who see this will take a look at your wonderful writing.


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