Struggles of Joy #6

Chapter 9

As time went on, Ruth began to realize that she did have feelings for Boaz. She desperately tried to keep them in check and hide them from others, but it was getting hard. Ruth often wondered if there were any feelings for herself in Boaz’s heart. She highly doubted it, as he was a busy man and had so many things to do; he would hardly have time for pursuing a wife.
            Every afternoon, Ruth would head home and she’d tell Naomi about her day. Naomi continually hinted about something more happening between the two. Ruth was slowly coming around to the idea, though it was still hard for her to think that this might be what God had in mind. She often wondered that if she were to go ahead with Naomi’s plan, would she be interfering with God’s plans? However, how can one interfere with the master and creator of the universe? No one is interfering with anything; they are just fulfilling what He has in mind. She would argue with herself until she could hardly think. There was so much to consider when it came to her God. How wonderful He was!
            On one such day, she was gleaning in Boaz’s field, and had been asking some of her questions to her new friends but they were as stumped as she was. However, she was thankful for any information she could gather.
            Boaz walked by her and smiled. She stood up and curtsied, bowing her head in submission. “How are you today, sir?”
            “Quite well, thank you Ruth,” he replied. “And how are you doing today? Has anyone bothered you?”
            “Oh, no sir, not in your fields. I want to thank you for your protection. I could never ask for anything more.” Boaz looked at her and smiled tightly.
            “Yes, well, I am glad you are so happy. If there is every anything I can do to help you, do not hesitate to let me know.” He quickly smiled at her and turned to leave. Ruth was puzzled because he usually stayed longer and would invite her to lunch. “Thank you sir!” she hurriedly threw in his direction, so he would not think her impolite. Shaking her head, she went back to her gleaning, trying to forget the recent events.
            As she walked home that afternoon, she couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation with Boaz. There was nothing strange, except that she had never lunched with him and therefore had no leftovers to bring home to Naomi. She hadn’t quite come to the point where she expected him to ask her to lunch, but it had happened so much that it was just odd to not be asked. Had she done or said something wrong?
            As she entered her house, she was still puzzled, but decided not to bother her mother with her problems. Naomi opened the door to greet her with a hug. “May God bless Boaz for his kindness and praise Adonai for bringing you safely home to me once again!” Naomi’s blessing, which never would have escaped her lips six months ago, brought a smile to Ruth’s face.
            “Thank you mother. Yes, Adonai is good to us.” She pushed past her mother, went to the kitchen to put down her grain, and began putting on her apron.
            “Ruth,” Naomi came in and put a loving hand on Ruth’s arm, “What’s wrong? You’re not your happy self. I can tell when you’re down; you don’t hide it very well. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
            “Well, don’t laugh at me, Mother, but I’ve been thinking about what you’ve been talking about, that nonsense about Boaz and me.” Ruth tied her apron behind her back and took out a bowl to do the mixing in. “Well, that’s what I used to call it and what I always thought it was. Now, I think God’s been telling me that it’s not foolishness and he’ll work through us if I obey him. Can this be possible? Mother, am I going crazy to want such a thing?” Ruth, close to tears, turned around and stared into her mother-in-law’s eyes. “When Boaz is near me, my heart leaps like never before. I feel as if I am sinning because I’ve been married already. I shouldn’t be having these feelings, but I am. What have I done wrong that God would punish?” She sunk to the floor and began to cry. She put her face in her hands and sobbed out all her frustration and anger. Naomi sat down beside her, but she wisely let her cry. After a bit, she began to speak.
“Ruth, daughter, love is not a sin. It’s from God. He’s given you a second chance because your first love died. Don’t punish yourself because you have feelings for a man once again. The love of a man and a woman is beautiful; nothing can break it. Even death itself cannot break it. However, it allows love to start over again. Our God has opened up another door for you to enter in. Just think: if you were to marry Boaz, you could carry Mahlon's name on to your children. God has shown you wondrous things; do not let them drown in your doubt.” She put a comforting hand on Ruth’s now steady body.
            “Do you think God will punish me for loving Boaz?” Ruth quietly asked Naomi, afraid of her answer.
            “Daughter, no. God is a God of love. He will bless it. You’ve done nothing wrong for him to be angry.”
            “Well, what shall I do? Boaz could never return my feelings for him. He’s so much more powerful, he could never find it in him to love a foreigner.”
            “Nonsense, daughter. You are kind, beautiful, and full of God’s love. Any man not drawn to you is foolish. You have the blue of the morning in your eyes and the kindness of a mother bear to her cub.” Naomi lifted Ruth’s eyes to hers and vehemently whispered, “Don’t ever let the Father of every lie tell you that you are worthless and that no one cares about you. I lived in that lie for a long time; look where it brought me. I had to get out of it and now,” her face lit up in a smile, “I’m happy. Don’t make the same foolish mistakes I did Ruth.” Naomi was squeezing Ruth’s hands, trying to get her point across. “If you don’t remember anything I’ve ever told you, remember this. God can forgive a foolish heart, but if possible, don’t go down the path of a fool. You will be happier. And do not repeat the same mistakes I did. It would hurt me to see you follow in my footsteps.”
            “Of course not mother. I’ll learn from your mistakes. Adonai has brought us through our sadness and now he will bring us through this. What do you think I should do if this is what God wants of us?” Naomi stood up, very concentrated on the situation and began to pace.
            “It is time you found a permanent home, away from me. And Boaz will provide that home for you, no doubt. He is a very close relative of ours, so the law implies that he must marry you and continue on Mahlon’s name. He’s been very kind in letting you gather grain with his workers. Perhaps there are some feelings within him for you.” Naomi smiled at Ruth, who once again blushed.
            “Please mother, stay on topic!” Even though she scolded Naomi for saying such things, Ruth couldn’t help but be a bit hopeful.
            “All right, Ruth, calm down,” she said with a teasing smile. “He’ll be at the threshing floor tonight, as the wind is just perfect. He needs steady wind, not too gusty or too strong. I also know that Boaz winnows the barley by himself. He enjoys having alone time and the threshing floor allows him that pleasure. Here is what you must do, my daughter.”
            “Wait, Mother, how do you know Boaz’ll be at the threshing floor tonight? What if you’re wrong?”
            “Don’t worry dear Ruth. He will be there. I know these things. Now, listen carefully. You must take a long bath; get all the dirt and grime of the day off. Then put on some perfume. I have some by my cot. You can use it.”
            “But Mothe_”
            “Shhhh, let me finish Ruth. This is important. No more interruptions!” scolded Naomi, quickly shushing Ruth’s interjections. “You must dress in your nicest dress. Do not be modest in choosing the right garment. Then, go down to the threshing floor, where Boaz will be. But, you must not be seen by him, not until the right moment.”
            “When is the ri_”
            “Ruth! Enough, let me finish! You are not to let Boaz see you. Let him finish his dinner so he is content. Then you are to watch where he goes to lie down. Make sure you don’t choose the wrong man if there are others there! Once he has lied down, go and uncover his feet and lie down there. Now, what is it you want to say?” Ruth had begun to pace and was looking a bit worried.
            “Why should I lie at his feet? What will that accomplish except that I wish to be with him, in, well, the wrong way? It’s not my time to be with him yet, that needs to wait until after marriage.” Ruth stopped pacing and looked straight into Naomi’s eyes. “I will do nothing that will anger my God. Do not make me do anything that I will regret, Mother.”
            “Of course not!” laughed Naomi. “You’re doing nothing wrong. Let me explain. By lying at Boaz’s feet, you are presenting yourself as a humble petitioner seeking your landlord’s protection. Furthermore, and more importantly, you are proposing a marriage. You have uncovered his feet, letting the draft make him a bit uncomfortable. He will awake in the dead of night when all people that could be there are gone. It will give you both the privacy you need to talk of what you want to do. This will go well for both of you in the end, even though there is some secrecy.”
            “But, what if he doesn’t return the favor? I couldn’t bear Boaz's refusal. I could never work in his fields again! I’d rather die than stop working in his fields!”
            “Don’t be so dramatic Ruth. You’re worse than the cow giving birth. God will work things out. Boaz has been very kind to us, to you, and he is your relative. He knows that our laws state that a close relative is to marry a widow so that the name of the deceased husband will be continued. He will not refuse you.” Naomi went over to Ruth and put her hands on her shoulders in a comforting gesture. “Let the Lord guide you. If you feel as if this is wrong, then by all means, do not do it. But, if you feel that God will bless this, then do it with no fear. The all powerful God of Israel will be with you because you are now his child just like I am.” Ruth smiled at her, suddenly feeling new confidence in the secretive plan.
            “Yes mother, I was wrong to question you for the Lord has spoken through you. Thank you for your insight and honesty; I will do everything you have said and pray that God will look kindly on us.” Ruth pulled her mother-in-law’s aging body close to hers and they stood in each other’s arms, enjoying the presence of each other.

Chapter 10

            Ruth had washed, gotten dressed, and adorned herself with the perfume and jewelry that Naomi very kindly loaned her. The hopeful woman was ready to carry out the rest of the plan. Quickly eating a small dinner, she kissed Naomi and then left for Boaz’s fields.
            Because the floor was at the bottom of the hill, there were many hiding places where Ruth could observe the actions of those coming and going, but they could not see her. She found a spot to sit where she was comfortable. She saw some workers finishing the gleaning and getting ready to leave, but there was no Boaz. Doubts flashed through her mind. What if Naomi was wrong when she said Boaz would be at the threshing floor? How sure was she actually?
            I can’t back down now, I’m here all dressed up and ready for the night! If this is something that you want me to do, give me courage and strength God!
            She moved into a more relaxed position and waited for her master to approach. She spent the time praying, both thanking her father for all that had happened and praying for blessings on what she was about to do. About half an hour later, as the sun was setting, Ruth saw Boaz approaching the threshing floor. Her heart began to pound as she realized the time was coming nearer for her to boldly pronounce her marriage proposal.
            She gulped and attempted to swallow her flutters. She remembered what Naomi said about making sure that she saw where he lied down so she would not propose to the wrong man. As she watched the man that she had come to love, her eyes melted. He was going around and talking to the workers who were still finishing up. He was so bold, sure of himself, and full of God. How could he ever come to love someone like her? She began to doubt again, but she knew that if she entertained those thoughts she would back out and Naomi would be very disappointed in her.
            Ruth made herself think about other things so that she would not lose her courage. She thought of the days with Mahlon and how much they loved each other. She thought about the times when she and Naomi cried together because they had no one else to go to. She thought about all the times that Adonai had come and comforted her, giving her just what she needed.
Ruth’s eye’s flickered up to check on where Boaz was. She didn’t want to lose him among the other workers. He was still talking to a man so Ruth decided to move around so she could watch him without straining her neck. She wondered if all her moving around would dirty her dress, but as she thought about it, no one would notice a few dirty marks on the garment at midnight. The appointed time was racing nearer, but right now, Ruth felt peaceful about what she was going to do. Adonai had answered her prayers.