Struggles of Joy #7

Chapter 11

It had been a few hours, Boaz had lied down, and Ruth was sure he was sleeping. It had been dark for at least an hour and a half, and she didn’t think there were any others there. Her heart was hammering against her chest because she knew the moment was nearing when she would make her daring request. She gathered up what nerve she had left, stood up quietly and headed down to where her benefactor was resting. She was very careful to keep her dress from swishing and her feet from making noise on the ground. She didn’t want to disturb Boaz and she didn’t want to bring any attention to herself from any bystanders still mulling around.
She took a deep breath and tried to steady her shaking hands, but they would not heed to her request. Ruth felt like she was about to explode. How could she do this? Was it right? Would God bless her intervention? What if this wasn’t his plan?
Stop it Ruth! No more doubting. It’s too late to go back anyways.
She reached the place where Boaz was resting and she kneeled down at his feet. She was about to lift the blanket, therefore uncovering his feet, but something stopped her. She was terrified of the outcome. She was terrified of what others would say about her if Boaz rejected her. Even if he didn’t, what would people say of her method of proposing? It was so bold! She shook her head, took a deep breath, and then held it. Then, without hesitating another moment, she lifted up the blanket to uncover his feet. Her eyes shot up to Boaz’s sleeping face, but saw no movement. Slowly letting out her breath, she quietly moved to lie beside Boaz.
Her deed was finished; there was no backing out now. She had lifted his blanket off his feet and she was now lying beside him. She literally had to make herself breathe or else she would have held her breath. She was shaking, she was stiff, and terrified to move. One slight movement could wake Boaz at the wrong time. Ruth desperately tried to fall asleep, but there was no way that it was possible. She was lying next to the man that had haunted her dreams every night. This was no longer a dream; she couldn’t wake herself up and know that she was safe in her own bed. Ruth ended up praying. Her eyes were closed and she was still, but inside, her mind was having a conversation with God. She was asking for peace, for guidance, for courage, and for faith that what she was doing was right.
Ruth was still praying when she felt Boaz tremble beside her. He was probably having a dream, for Ruth knew people usually move in their sleep. Then he rolled over. Ruth almost let out a screech, but just in time, she caught herself. If he rolled on top of her, what was she to do? Ruth scooted over so that he could roll the way he wanted to but it was too late. He rolled over on top of her arm. Boaz bolted up and looked around. Something had awakened him, and he wanted to see what it was.
Ruth was trembling; everything inside of her was telling her to run away, but she clung to the last bits of courage she had. Taking a deep breath, she tried to sit still, but at that moment, Boaz saw her. He let out a bit of a startled yell, but his surprise and recent sleeping made it sound more like a groan than a cry. Ruth sat up and stared at him, her eyes wide, but she was sure they were not as wide as his was. He was staring at her, as if she was a ghost. What should she do? She hadn’t expected this to happen. Naomi had told her that Boaz would know what to do, but she never told her how to react when he first woke up!
Boaz stared at Ruth, and she could tell he was trying to understand what was happening. “Who are you?” He croaked out after a minute. “What do you want of me? Why are you here?” The questions were spread apart, as if he was trying to figure them out himself but his mind wouldn’t let him think clearly. Ruth tried to speak, but her vocal chords seemed to have stopped working. She lifted up a quick prayer and then opened her mouth to speak.
“I am your maidservant, Ruth.”
Was that too much familiarity, using maidservant, rather than ‘the Moabitess’? Did she come on too strong? Would Boaz push her away, accusing her of adultery? Should I have given him my name? Now he knows who I am and can report me. When he first saw me, he didn’t recognize me. He had to ask my name. Now I have given it away! Ruth was trembling as she looked up into the confused man’s eyes. He was still staring at her, as if what was happening hadn’t registered in his mind. She decided to ask her question that she had been practicing for ages, and if he denied her, well that was that.
“Please, spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant, as you are my kinsman redeemer. If there is anything you wish to do for me, do this for me now.” There, she had gotten it out, even though her words were shaky and sounded less than confident. If he denied her, at least she would have said what she wanted. She lowered her head, as she couldn’t bear to read his reaction. If he was to hit her, let him hit her head, she was ready for it. The silence of the moment was killing her. She could only hear Boaz’s staggered breathing. She thought he sounded angry. She was tensing up, getting ready for him to hit her and tell her she was foolish to come to him like this, but it never came. She felt a body fall beside hers and a hand touch her head. She looked up into Boaz’s face.
“Blessed are you, my daughter!” His voice was rough with emotion and his eyes wet with tears. “In this kind act you have surpassed your last acts of devotion and friendship to Naomi. You haven’t offered yourself to younger men in marriage. You had a choice of rich and poor men, but you chose to fulfill a family obligation, even though I am so much older than you are. May God bless your efforts richly!” As he spoke, he moved his hand to her shoulder, but this did not stop her from trembling. Ruth was unable to believe what she was hearing. He was blessing her, not pushing her away! “Yes, I will grant everything that you have asked because you’ve shown that you’re loyal to your family no matter what the cost. And I know that you are a loyal woman; everyone in the town will agree to that. They would all say you’d make a wonderful wife.” Removing his hand, he lifted her lowered face up to his. Although Ruth could see the love in his eyes, she couldn’t help but feel hurt by his answer.
He acted as if her proposal only satisfied family loyalty, but it went much farther. And what of the whole “I know you are a loyal woman; everyone in the town will agree to that” part, Ruth didn’t even care what other people thought. She loved Boaz. If he thought that this was only family loyalty, then so be it. She would not be the one to tell Boaz his assumptions were wrong, especially when his suppositions were much more innocent than her actual intentions.
Ruth lowered her eyes, escaping Boaz’s intense gaze. She felt like he was looking right through her, into her heart. She felt his hand on her shoulder again and he continued, “There is one difficulty in my marrying you.” Ruth felt like slapping him in the face and yelling “Yeah! You don’t love me at all. You just want to fulfill a family loyalty and get more land! You rich fool!” She controlled her anger enough so that those painful words did not escape her mouth. Instead, she lowered her eyes so he could not see her irritation.
“It is true that I am a kinsman-redeemer, but there is one who is closer in relation than I am.” Ruth whipped her head up and stared at him. Boaz was startled and quickly pulled his hand from her shoulder.
Another kinsman-redeemer? How could I ever marry someone else? Even if he doesn’t love me, I would rather marry Boaz! Why didn’t Naomi tell me of this other redeemer? What am I to do?
Boaz must have sensed her annoyance, because he continued on, “If it were not for him, I would marry you as soon as preparations could be made, but because I am an honorable man, I cannot and will not take that right away from him. Tomorrow, I will go before the elders of Bethlehem and to Olmech, the redeemer, and I will ask for your hand in marriage. If Olmech refuses, and agrees to redeem you, so be it and may Adonai bless your wedding, but if he does not want you, then by the life of Adonai, I will marry you.” His gaze drifted off to a patch behind Ruth as he set his resolve. He had now subjected himself to divine punishment if he failed to keep his word. Ruth understood the solemnity of his oath and was beginning to wonder why he was so intent upon marrying her if Olmech refused to have her. “Now,” he continued, interrupting her thoughts, “stay for the night so you’ll not be harmed by drunkards exploring the night for stray maidens.” Ruth nodded and lay down beside him. He lied down next to her, closed his eyes, and was quickly asleep.
As she listened to Boaz’s steady breathing, the evening preoccupied her mind, which refused to allow sleep. She was ecstatic that Boaz was going to marry her as long as Olmech didn’t want her. Ruth desperately wanted to marry Boaz, even if he did not love her right at this moment. The love could still come. Ruth remembered her mother telling about her marriage. They had no love in the beginning, but it changed. Now, Ruth looked up to her parent’s marriage as a prime example of how a couple should love each other. That’s how it’ll be. With time, he’ll come to love me. With these thoughts wandering through her mind, she fell into a restless slumber.

Chapter 12

Before the sun had even started to peek out, Ruth was awake. As long as the darkness covered her actions, no one would see her. Knowing the gossip queens would eat up any news about a scandalous night on the threshing floor, she wanted to leave as soon as she could. Ruth shuttered as she thought about how far the town gossips could take this news. Did you hear about that Moabitess who seduced Boaz? This is surely a conspiracy to get around the law and defraud the nearer kinsman redeemer! Ruth will only bring shame to her household. She should go back to Moab and leave us!
Sitting up and stretching, Ruth looked over at Boaz, but she could not see him clearly. Knowing he was there, she tried to rise without waking him. She cringed when she heard him grumble, “Ruth...?”
“Shhh. We mustn’t let anyone know I’ve been here. I’m leaving, but thank you for you kindness.” She reached over to touch him as a quick thank you, but he was quicker. Feeling his strong hand wrapping around hers, Ruth wasn’t sure what to do. Is this wrong, for we’re not married. Why is he touching me? “Boaz, please” she tried, but it was so hard to think when he was touching her.
“My love, you must leave,” he whispered as he sat up and removed his blankets.
“We can’t be seen here, together.” Ruth tried again to leave but he held her back again. “Think of what the town chitchat would consist of!” He let out a snort and smiled at her. “I’ll take care of the town’s people when I take care of Olmech. Take your shawl and cover your head with it so no one recognizes you. Go home and get ready for our wedding.” His face softened as he looked at her and she lowered her gaze, unable to bear the power of his stare. “I will get you when I’m ready, so be ready, my love.” He stood up and wandered over to where the workers had been threshing. Picking up a sac and adding some grain to it he said, “Take this and bring it home to Naomi and tell her that all is well. Now go, do not delay anymore!” Pushing her into the darkness, it was clear that she was to leave.
Not sure if he could see her, she smiled anyways. “Goodbye,” she whispered as she left with her bundle. On the way home, Ruth couldn’t help but be a bit optimistic about Boaz’s feelings for her. He had called her “my love.” Ruth wasn’t sure what to think or feel. It had all gone by so fast. Less than 24 hours ago, she was a widow with no heirs, and now she had a fiancé and a chance to bear a child and continue Mahlon’s name. Ruth paused as she remembered Olmech. It was true she would still be able to continue on her husbands name with Olmech, but there would be no happiness. With a great sigh, she continued on her way home. If this was what God had wanted, then it would work out. Ruth had to have faith in that and she had to trust that Adonai would not forsake her.
Keeping her head down, Ruth ran home. She had no desire to explain herself to anyone. Thankful when she reached her front door, Ruth brushed her feet off. She was about to open the door when it opened and Naomi rushed out.
“Ruth! My daughter! How did things go!?” She pulled her daughter inside and shut the door. Pulling her to the bed and pushing her down, Naomi was ready to hear a report of everything that had happened. “Mother, calm down,” giggled Ruth. “I’ll tell you everything, but let me put this food away. Boaz gave it to you, telling me to let you know that all is well.” She smiled at Naomi, who was wide-eyed but smiling. As Ruth rose and brought the food over to the kitchen, Naomi pushed for more details
“Well, I did all you said. I bathed, dressed, and went down to the threshing floor. I waited for Boaz, but he didn’t come right away. When he came, I sat and watched him, just like you told me to. After saying hello to some of his workers, he went and lied down. I watched him until he slept, and then I went to him, uncovered his feet and lay beside him.” Ruth could tell that this wasn’t the part that Naomi wanted to hear, but she was enjoying seeing Naomi squirm.
“Yes, I know Ruth. What happened next,” pushed Naomi.
“Mother, you’d think that I was having a child!” laughed Ruth. Naomi’s eyebrow raised, but Ruth quickly shook her head. “No Mother, nothing wrong happened between Boaz and me. I am not going to have a baby, yet.”
“Yet, meaning..,” asked Naomi, here eyes wide.
“Yes, meaning if all works out, we are going to get married!!” Both women screamed and hugged each other. “There is one possible problem...” Ruth began as she pulled away from Naomi.
“Problem? What could it possibly be? You two are perfect for each other!”
“No, it’s nothing between us. See, he’s not the closest kinship-redeemer. Olmech comes first.” Naomi’s face transformed from a smile to a frown in record time.
“Olmech!” Her eyes lowered and she shook her head. “Of course! I should have remembered. He will redeem for sure you because he’ll get my land. But, you are a Moabitess, and that might push him away. I don’t know Ruth.” Running her hands down her face she continued, “this is an enormous problem. Stupid me!” She hit herself on the head and then put her face in her hands and shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Ruth. How could I forget about Olmech?!”
“Its okay, Mother,” comforted Ruth, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I’m confident that if God wants this to work out, Olmech won’t want to redeem me. Adonai is all-powerful, you just need to believe and trust that He knew about this long ago and has planned it. Have faith, Mother!” Ruth smiled at Naomi with more courage than she actually had.
“Yes, Adonai will be good to us. You have so much faith. I’m so happy that the Lord has shown you truth.” Naomi smiled at her daughter and put a hand on her shoulder. “If I know Boaz, he’ll work something out.”
“Oh yes, he’ll work something out. He said that he’s going to talk before Olmech and the elders today. He said he’ll marry me if Olmech doesn’t want to, but if Olmech does, then he has no power and I will have to marry Olmech. So plead with Adonai that Olmech will not want me!” Ruth was very serious as she made her request. Boaz was the only man who made her heart pound. He was the only man she could see herself with for all the years to come and Boaz would be the only man that she could live with without always comparing him to Mahlon. Mahlon, of course, would always have a special place in her heart, but it was time to move on. If the man she married could not keep her mind off Mahlon, she did not want to marry him.
“Listen, my daughter,” continued Naomi after a few minutes of thoughtful silence, “stay here with me until the matter is resolved. Boaz will not relax his efforts until he resolves the matter.” She got up, pulled Ruth with her, and gave her a big hug. “Be at peace. Adonai will work it out. He is in control of this affair and we just need to trust him.”
Ruth was restless all day long and she spent much of her time baking so she could keep her mind off Boaz. She continually thought about the grave possibility that she might be forced to marry Olmech. Ruth tried to think of it in a good light: she’d be continuing Mahlon’s line no matter who she married. No matter how she tried to reason marrying Olmech, she couldn’t get excited about it. There was nothing that could make her want to marry him if Boaz was still around.
Coming in often, Naomi tried to encourage Ruth with news of other subjects, but the conversation always returned to the city gates and Boaz’s arguments.
Many times, Ruth thought about going to the city gates and listening to the outcome, but every time she came close to leaving, Naomi stopped her and convinced her otherwise. What would people think of a woman at the town meeting? The city gates were no place for women, unless they were passing through to get water. Anyways, if she was there, what could she do? Women had no say in these types of matters. The fact that Ruth had proposed the marriage would bring much shame on her. She had no place in going to Boaz’s place at midnight. If many people knew this, it could ruin their chance for marriage entirely. Ruth had to stay at home and wait for Boaz’s bidding, if it ever came.