The story of Ruth is a great story for expats. Especially for expats returning “home” after a long time of living abroad. I read through the book of Ruth this morning and found more hope and blessing in it than I initially expected. The book is called Ruth, but could just as well, or even better, be called Naomi. As it is Naomi who looses everything, including hope, and finds blessing in the end. The blessing comes, surprisingly, through Ruth, a foreigner. But it is Naomi who receives the blessing and is restored.
Actually, the story is at first not even about Naomi, but about her husband. For this is how the story starts: “a man from Bethlehem in Juda … went to live for a while in the country of Moab”. He went there with his wife Naomi and their two sons. They left Bethlehem because of a famine in the area and decided to wait it out in a foreign land, where food was still available. They intended to come back though, as they only went to live there for a while. But then the story takes a turn. The man dies and leaves his wife and two sons behind. Now it is all about Naomi. She is on her own. She allows her sons to marry two local women, one of them is Ruth. However, about ten years later, both of her sons die as well and Naomi is left with no-one but her two daughters-in-law. By that time, the famine in Juda is over and Naomi decides to travel back to her own country, after more than ten years. She urges her two daughters-in-law to go back to their families, to stay where they belong. One of them does, but Ruth stays with Naomi and travels with her to an unknown place. She intends to stay, even if this means to die and be buried in the land of her in-laws. She is not an expat, but a migrant. She goes to stay.
When the two women arrive in Bethlehem, the reaction of the women of the town says it all: “Can this be Naomi?”. She has changed, she is not the same woman who left her land and her people over ten years ago. In her words:
“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty”.
Continue reading “Travelling between worlds”