Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!”
Ruth 4:17 (NIV)
The Sage of Ecclesiastes says that everything is “hebel” (or “hevel”) which is translated from Hebrew into English using various words, most commonly “meaningless” or “vanity.” The Hebrew word, however, is mysterious and is rooted in the imagery of vapor, smoke, or fog. I love that word picture when I think about life. The vast majority of my 20,209 days are simply vapor. They came and went and I have no recollection of them. But some days are indelibly etched in my mind.
One such day was a gorgeous summer day in July. I was up early and drove four hours to visit a client for a day full of coaching sessions. Then I had a four-hour drive home. Wendy and I were in the depths of our journey through infertility. It was a particularly painful time.
As I drove up the interstate that morning, I had been praying and working through the incredible grief we were feeling. I looked out my car window and saw a gorgeous rainbow over a beautiful valley. This was a bit odd since it was a bright morning and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Thinking about the rainbow being a sign of God’s covenant and promise, I got emotional and began to cry. Then later that day, Wendy called me. She, too, had an emotional moment with God that morning when she read from the prophet Isaiah:
“Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
“Clear lots of ground for your tents!
Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
for your growing family.“
Walking with Wendy on our journey through infertility is one of the most difficult stretches of my life journey to date. There were so many lessons about a woman’s soul, my own masculinity, and what it means to be one. I learned about profound emptiness.
The story of Ruth is really about Naomi’s journey from emptiness to redemption and then to fullness. In today’s chapter, Boaz makes the deal to redeem Naomi’s deceased husband’s estate through an ancient custom called the Levirate Marriage. This was incredibly generous of Boaz because he was agreeing to marry a Moabite woman in order to produce a son, who would then continue the family line of Naomi’s dead husband and inherit his estate. Socially and financially there was no tangible reward for Boaz doing this, there was certainly a cost in doing it, and there was also potential risk.
Boaz marries Ruth. Ruth immediately gets pregnant and gives birth to a son. Naomi takes the boy into her arms and her community of women celebrate that she has “a son” to inherit his grandfather’s estate, carry on his name, and care for her in her old age. She came home from Moab empty. Her story ends in fullness.
Along my spiritual journey, I’ve learned that God sometimes gives a sign or a word and the fullness of its meaning is only understood further down life’s road. The day of the rainbow and the prophet’s words for Wendy, we hoped that it meant we might finally have a child together. That wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, Wendy and I have experienced our own kind of redemption in the fullness of life. Our tent pegs are stretched out and in our tent are numerous children of family and children of friends we get to love and in whose lives we get to invest. And, of course, I’ll never forget the day Wendy took our grandson Milo into her arms like Naomi holding little Obed.
From emptiness, to fullness.
Life is good.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.