19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 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.”
16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Not long ago my mom went out of town. She normally hovers exactly .4 miles from me. This is perhaps the most comforting statistic in my mind. We can walk to her house, trailing like a really slow and sweaty parade. Just knowing she is there turns me into the emoji with hearts for eyes. She is my helpmeet, second only to my spouse (and sometimes, if I’m honest, a touch higher). And then she went and flew 2,000 miles away and hiked a mountain…without me.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. And for every child, I’d like to add a village. Most days I feel like I need teeming cities at my back, like all the little kingdoms in Game of Thrones, united and pledged in allegiance to me.
This, perhaps, is why Naomi is my favorite Lady of the Bible (like Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” but with a different curse). She was cursed to lose her village over and anon. But she survived. A famine drover her family from Jerusalem and all its familiar watering holes and threshing floors. But she made a new village in Moab, despite her alien status. She made house, lost a husband, recuperated, married off her sons, and then calamity strikes again. No more sons. They die and she is alone, with daughters-in-law in tow.
But to everyone’s shock and awe, she rallies, sort of. She and Ruth had back to Jerusalem. Better to be destitute in your home town than abroad. She’s bitter though, toughed like leather by misfortune and pointing a finger at God. And yet, she finds her footing enough to play Yenta to Ruth and Boaz. She marries them off and the same women she told to call her Mara (the “bitter one”) now clap her on the back and take turns cradling her grandson, baby Obed.
God brings us our villages as we need them. They are open-bordered and amorphous. The minute you set down stakes, spread your blanket and settle down for a nice long nap, the wind shifts. And that’s okay. People come and go and come again. The point is that you’ve got a village in the first place. You’ve got the people, even as the setting behind them changes.
Midday on the seventh day after my mother had left, I found myself at the pool with my kids and the friend who stood beside me on my wedding day, who helped bless the union that would lead to these very little people. The sun was blazing and the water tepid, but we stayed late and talked long. It was a chatting over the well from one villager to another. She was my person, my God-sent helper, there to ease the itch in my mind that happens when I find myself on my own with my children for too long.
We need our people. We need the friends who call us “Mara” when we want to vent and who hold our babes when we want to rejoice. My prayer will always be to keep the dividing lines loose between me and “the world” because I’m always in the market for new villages and villagers. We will need nations by the time we are done and I will rule no one out.
Sunday Thoughts Link Up!
It’s time for another Sunday Thoughts Link-Up! I know there are many out there with wisdom that could encourage all of us. As long as it’s Biblically-based, I’d love for you to join up and then read and comment on what others have shared. Please also leave a comment here. Think of this as a Sunday morning community group that comes to you. And grab the button if you like…
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