Struggles of Joy #2

Ok - next few chapters of Struggles of Joy... tell me what you think! :)

Chapter 2
Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah walked out of their homes, their heads bent in grief, and their hearts heavy. All three were leaving together for Naomi’s home, Bethlehem. Ruth felt torn between her family and Naomi. She deeply loved Naomi and her allegiance lied with her when she married Naomi’s son, but the words from her mother still echoed in her mind.
            Don’t you see what‘s happening to you? You’re turning into a fool. That God of Naomi is a lie. Why can’t you see that? She has lost all her family because she worships this God. Obviously, the gods are punishing her for not giving them their due.”
            “But mother, she is so different than anyone I’ve ever met. She has a brightness that I’ve never seen. She even has it in her hardest times.”
            “She has clouded your senses. She is an enchantress, and you have fallen under her spell!”
            “I am her daughter, just like you became Grandma Miriam’s daughter when you married Papa. It is our way; I am indebted to her now. Can’t you imagine her pain? All of her family is gone and now her daughters will abandon her. Maybe Orpah will leave, but I will not leave her. She is my mother and she needs me.”
            “You fool! Leave this place for you are no longer one of us. I hope you grow old and will see the truth or else you will suffer when the gods decide to stop their lenience. I would not even wish that misery on a traitor.”
            “Be gone child. I do not know you anymore.”
            Ruth cringed as she remembered that conversation. She had struggled to make her family understand her predicament. Her mother still had Papa and her children, but Naomi had no one except her and Orpah. Ruth had grown to love that old woman as if she was her own flesh. More importantly, Ruth had made an oath, and she must keep that oath under all costs.
            She thought back to when Naomi told them she was leaving. Saying that her God had blessed Bethlehem again, she proposed that she return. Naomi told her daughters-in-law to stay with their families and let her leave, but both girls vehemently refused and said they would stay by her until their death. Even though Naomi argued with them and beseeched them to stay, both had made up their minds and arguing was useless.
            After seeing Naomi last night, Ruth wanted to stay with her. She had seen hopelessness and defeat in her eyes, not something she was used to seeing.
            But what can I expect? Her whole family is gone. First Elimalech, then Kilion, and now Mahlon are all gone. I must become her family now so the hope will come back into her eyes.
            As the threesome left through the city gates, Ruth ignored the urge to turn and look back. She was leaving all that was familiar for a country she did not know. With Orpah beside her, Ruth took a deep breath and settled into a steady pace behind Naomi.
            Ruth thought about the large sack on her back and her eyes filled with tears. She quickly blinked them back so Naomi would not catch her and send her back. She had everything that meant anything to her in the bag: a few of Mahlon’s clothes, the corn doll that Papa made her, and the blanket that Mahlon and she shared. She tried not to think too much about her husband because she knew the tears would come and she couldn’t keep them away. She didn’t want to make this transition any harder for Naomi or Orpah. She knew it would take all their strength to just stay together as they were leaving their hometown behind.

Chapter 3

            The three travelers had already been on the road for two days and Ruth was tiring. She could tell that Naomi was also weakening because she would stop to rest often. Their food rations were decreasing but Naomi assured them that they would not be walking much longer. Ruth’s sadness about leaving Moab had somewhat dulled and the anxiety about starting a new life had replaced it. She began to think about how she wanted her house to look and how she would provide food for her family. She was running all this through her mind when Naomi stopped and sat down. Enjoying any rest that they could take, Ruth and Orpah moved near and sat down.
            “How are you doing, Mother?” asked Orpah as Ruth took out some water and offered it to Naomi who gratefully took it.
            “I’m still alive and that’s what counts. When there is no hope left in the world, God is giving me strength to continue on.” She took a sip of water and then passed it to Oprah who took a grateful gulp. “When we first left Moab, I saw your hesitations. Ruth, you...”
            Ruth tried to protest, “Mother, please, no_.”
            “No Ruth, my daughter, you listen to me. It was hard for you to leave your home. After all, it is your home, it is where you grew up, and it’s where your heart is.”
            “No Mother, my heart is with you. Always.”
            “Your kind words encourage me, but they do not cover your lies. You must return to your home. You must return to your mother and father and to your family. It’s not right for me to take you away as God has chosen to take away my children. Return home and may God bless you for your kindness to your husband and now to me. I will pray for you every day and that you will find another husband and have children to carry on his name. Now leave me.” Without another word, she stood up, picked up her satchel, and started on her way.
           Ruth frantically looked at Orpah and then clutched her arm as she rushed after Naomi. Orpah was in shock and she followed Ruth as a child followed his mother. She had no control over what she was doing.
            “Mother!” screamed Ruth as she reached the elderly woman. “Do not do this! We have made a decision and we will go with you. Do not make us leave you. My mother has Papa as well as all her children, but you have no one! We are your family. Please do not make us leave. It will break my heart, kind Mother. I beg you to let us stay and accompany you to your home and your people!” Ruth dropped to her knees and wept into Naomi’s skirt while Orpah sobbed into Naomi’s hand.
            “Yes Mother, do not make us go back when we are so set on going with you. You are our family now. Do not make us leave you!” Orpah had regained her composure, and Ruth felt better having Orpah arguing her point too.
            “My children, why should you come back with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, of course not! You must return to your parents and live as if I never entered your life.” She took Orpah’s hands and staring her straight in the eyes said, “Even if I were to get married and conceive a son tonight, would you wait for him to grow up until you could marry him? No, of course not! Do not curse yourself on my behalf. Leave me and go live your lives. You need not suffer because God has taken away.”
            Orpah fell to her knees beside Ruth and began weeping. Ruth could hardly tell what was happening because her sorrow had overtaken her logical thoughts. Orpah reached out with her shaking fingers and held her mother-in-law’s hands.
            “Mother, please_”
            “Go Orpah; live your life. You will be much happier away from me.” Naomi handed Orpah her bag and pushed her back towards Moab. Orpah was still weeping but she left, stumbling because her tears blinded her.
            Ruth could hardly believe that Orpah had left her to fight the battle alone. Before she at least had Orpah to stand up beside her if things got too hard, but now Ruth was alone and she wasn’t sure what to do.
            Oh God of Israel, give me strength and the right words to say. I will not leave Naomi!
            Ruth felt a soft touch on her shaking shoulder and knew it was Naomi’s. “Look, Ruth, your sister Orpah has left. She’s gone back to her people and her gods. You should do the same. It will only bring you grief to come with me.”
            Ruth felt a new wave of tears fall down her face. They seemed to keep coming no matter how she tried to hold them back. Looking up at her mother-in-law, she said the boldest thing she had ever said.
            “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back to my people. They are no longer my people. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. I will die where you die and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us. Do not make me leave you, Mother.” Getting more confident as she went, she stood up and embraced Naomi, trying to show that she meant every word that escaped her lips.
            Ruth felt her mother-in-law start to shake as her tears wet Ruth’s blouse. They clutched each other and cried, feeling the other’s pain.
            “Ruth, my dear daughter, you have shown such kindness to me,” Naomi barely sobbed out. “I cannot ask this of you, but as you’ll not go back, come with me and bare my hardships as they come. It’s your choice and may God judge you accordingly.”
            “Oh thank you Mother!” Ruth had gripped Naomi’s shoulders as she realized her triumph. She inwardly thanked God for helping her to stand her ground when Naomi only wanted her to return home.
            Ruth’s legs wobbled as Naomi rose and pulled her on their way. “We must start now, Daughter, before the darkness comes and we lose the way. We’ve wasted enough time already.” She turned around and managed a small smile before heading on. Ruth returned the smile with a huge sigh and then obediently followed.