The Book of Ruth shows
the many layers of loss
a widow may experience.
Three little words sum up what happened to Naomi: "...she was left..." (Ruth 1:3) Their clinical starkness startles me with the shock, despair and helplessness she must have felt. Three little words shouldn’t be the end result of her investment of nurture and love for her husband and sons.
Worse yet, Naomi was left in a foreign country. Today Moab would be in the country of Jordan, approximately fifty miles from Bethlehem, about an hour-long drive by car. But in Naomi’s time it was a four or five-day journey by foot. They could not communicate by mail, telephone or e-mail with the people back home. Naomi was virtually cut off. She had left her house, her mother, her friends, neighbors and everything familiar back in Bethlehem. She submissively followed her husband to a foreign place she had probably never even seen before— and then she was left.
She lost her husband who, according to cultural norms of the day was at the very least her personal security, financial support and structure of her time. Her life circled around him like the moon around the earth.
In a sweeping and final devastation, her sons’ deaths stripped her of all hope and her personal identity for the future. The original Hebrew denotes this by deleting her name in verse three. She’s simply referred to as the woman.* Naomi’s life was blown apart.
A year after my husband died I began to realize losing my husband wasn’t a straight and easy street through mourning and then it was over and done. The street had potholes the size of elephants and I stumbled and fell into them time after time! I broke in many places as I realized all my losses! I had lost my dear friend, my parenting partner, my spiritual leader, and my lover. I’d lost my daily routine of prioritizing around his schedule. And the church’s schedule!—I’d lost my calling as a pastor’s wife, too. I’d lost my dreams of grand-parenting and growing old with him.
I identified with Naomi. As scripture stated she was left, so, too, was I. I was left to raise our children and make important decisions alone. I was left without the comfort, security and daily routine of marriage. I was left to face a future I did not want. I understood why the original Hebrew deleted Naomi’s name, reducing her to “the woman.” I felt like half a person and secretly pondered my value and purpose.
Admitting my multiple losses was painful. But if I not listed my losses and brokenness, I never would have known that the pain was cutting deep places for joy. ♥ ferree
* Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), p. 96.