Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Word of Hope
In this passage, Ruth chooses to stay with her mother-in-law instead of returning to her own family. She has learned to love Naomi, and feels a strong tie to her. This makes me think of “family of choice.” This is a term we hear frequently in our church. For me, family of choice consists of close friends to whom I can turn when I need to talk, and on whom I can depend when times get tough. For my family of choice, I am willing to respond whenever they are in need. Just as with Ruth and Naomi, it is during the tough times that bonds are formed and strengthened. They shared the loss of Ruth’s husband, who was Naomi’s son. In their loss and grief, they came to love and understand each other just as much as actual family members are meant to.
Within our church, where you can meet many people who were disenfranchised from their original churches and families, friendships are often formed that are stronger than family bonds. People learn to love and trust friends more than their own family members. And thus, families of choice are born. Holidays spent with families of choice can be more peaceful and fulfilling than strife-filled holidays spent with blood relatives. Someone needing support and understanding during a stressful time can learn to expect compassion from a group of friends, even when they never experienced the same from their own family. It is a beautiful thing that injured people can learn to trust again, that people who have not experienced kindness within their own family can build a new, more loving family. The love experienced within a family of choice is of the same nature as Christ’s love for us. By sharing this love, we become the body of Christ.
Loving God, let me always remember how important my interactions are with members of my family of choice. Let me not take for granted this sacred friendship. Help me to remain open to potential new members, so that I might be a vessel for Christ’s love.
Cathedral of Hope Member