Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. – Ruth 1:16
For some reason, Kynzie and I have an easier time memorizing some of the verses from the 66 we’re memorizing this year more than others.
This is one of those that’s been easier to memorize.
Maybe that’s because the words flow together in a more familiar way? Perhaps it’s as simple as the “you” and “I” concept? Either way, we haven’t needed any prompts or hand motions or musicality to memorize this one and get it to stick in our brains.
However, just because it’s been easy to memorize this verse
doesn’t mean we fully understand it.
In the same way that I don’t fully understand how oil is brought out of the ground…
or how animals stay warm in the winter…
I don’t completely understand how God works to bring so much good out of so much unsettling.
Here we are, following the story of God and his people, in the time of the judges, when disobedience, idolotry and violence were the order of the day. On top of that chaos comes a famine, which leads a man named Elimilech to take his wife, Naomi, and their two sons “across the state line” into Moab, in search of food.
Next, we’re told that Elimilech has died, leaving Naomi with her two sons, who married Moabite women, and then, lo and behold, the two sons also died. Naomi gets word that the famine in Judah, her home country, has ended, so she yearns to return to her people, where they worship her God.
Naomi laces up her newest pair of Nike’s and starts out. “With her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back.”
Maybe at first, they were all three a little excited to hit the road together on this journey back to Judah. But then, maybe reality sets in. Maybe Naomi started telling these Moabitess daughters-in-law what to expect in her home country. Maybe Orpah starts getting upset about leaving her own family behind in Moab. Either way, the conversation takes a turn toward the tumultuous.
“Go back,” Naomi tells Ruth and Orpah.
“Just go on back. I can make it from here. You girls need to go back and find yourselves another husband. Don’t worry about me. I can’t have any more sons for you to marry, after all, and this whole thing was a mistake. You girls go back. May the Lord bless you more than he’s blessed me. I’m scared and alone and now, I don’t have any idea how I will provide for us all if I can’t get you two hitched, and I’m not sure my people from Judah would even dream of marrying a Moabite woman who worships other gods. This was probably a bad idea from the get-go. What was I thinking?” (That’s my own paraphrase of Naomi’s pity-party speech on the side of the road.)
And then comes verse 16.
Orpah cries with Ruth and Naomi for a bit, and then starts back for home. Orpah’s outta there. Her mother-in-law flat out gave her permission, and she’s already a little homesick. Naomi really didn’t have to tell her twice. She’s hightailing it back home.
But Ruth? Now, Ruth is the kind of daughter-in-law every woman wants, I’m telling you. Ruth sees Orpah walking away, drying her tears, quickening her step, looks back at Naomi, reaches down into the depths of her character and declares, with everything in her, “Nope, Naomi. I’m staying with you.”
“Where you go, I will go,” says Ruth, the Resolved.
“Where you stay, I will stay,” declares Ruth, the radical.
Somewhere in their history, Ruth must have been watching Naomi, the immigrant from Judah, as she lived out her faith in the land of Moab, where God was not worshiped. Ruth is willing to go with Naomi and even make friends with Naomi’s peeps.
The influence of Naomi on her daughter-in-law was all coming together in a crossroad of chronology that could only be created by that very God himself. Ruth gets it, now. Ruth’s passion is ignited for the changes she states that she is willing to make. Maybe Ruth, in that moment, saw her life flash before her eyes and realized how much she had missed by serving other gods. Perhaps the thought of going back to that life had quickened in her heart a knowledge of its emptiness. Whatever it was, Ruth’s decision was now made. Naomi’s faith was worth Ruth’s embrace.
“And your God? Yes, your God will be my God, decides Ruth, the Redeemed.”
“So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by Ruth, the Moabite, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.”
Later, Ruth married Boaz, and she became the great grandmother of David, in the line of the Messiah, who was born and lain in a manger right there in Bethlehem. Whew, I have chills.
What I want Kynzie to know from this verse is this:
One: God uses the willingness of people who follow after him. Ruth’s life took a turn for the better, out of a culture of disobedience, when she made a commitment to follow the God of Naomi. That was a huge point of trajectory for Ruth, and it will be for Kynzie as well.
Two: Someone is always watching your faith, and like Ruth, they might just be willing to follow your God.
I thought a lot about this story of Ruth and Naomi when we were visiting my stepmom in Oklahoma last week on her family’s farm. The rural setting was a pretty good backdrop for visions of Ruth and Naomi crossing a lot of ground on foot together, and I found myself thinking a lot about these two women whom God blessed so very much.
In some ways, their unlikely story reminded me of two modern-day women who had a pretty unlikely story of their own.
My stepmom and me.
May we as women – grandmothers, mothers, stepmoms, aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters and friends – may we follow after God so hard that we inspire someone else to do the same.
Encouraging intentional adventure as we develop a follow-after faith,
PS – There’s more to Ruth’s story, so if you’re interested, check it out here. In the meantime, please hit comment below and share about a woman whose life has led you to follow God.
Memorization tip: You probably won’t need one either.