Struggles of Joy #8

Chapter 13

As Ruth finished another loaf of bread, her thoughts were still on the possible marriage. According to Israel custom, when there was a proposal, the couple was married. There was no engagement period, like there was in Moab. But, did that rule stand when the woman proposed, rather than the father arranging it? And what if the widow who proposed actually had another kinship redeemer? Naomi could not answer these questions for Ruth. There was no guarantee that she was married to Boaz because she had proposed to him.
            As she continued to mull over her questions, she was startled to hear a knock on the door. Opening the door, Ruth saw Boaz, smiling broadly with a group of men behind him. Ruth tried to say something, but she could not. Naomi came running over and screamed when she saw her guest was Boaz.
            “Boaz! Good news, I assume, by your enormous smile?” Naomi smiled back at him and took his hand to shake it. “May Adonai bless your union!” She turned to Ruth, who was still staring at Boaz. She had spent so much time telling herself that if it didn’t work it would be okay. She had almost believed that it wasn’t going to work out and she would be marrying Olmech, but now Boaz was here, ready to take her to their new home.
            Ruth felt Naomi pinch her side and she fell out of her shock. “Boaz, I... I guess Olmech doesn’t want me?” She attempted to say, though it came out softly and she didn’t feel the confidence that she was so sure she had before.
            “Yes, Ruth, my love. We will be married. I have come to collect you. Come with me; all the elders of the land wish you to be like Leah and Rachel. We have the blessing from all those who can give it. Come with me, and celebrate as my wife.” He took her hand, pulled her towards him, and then turned her to face Naomi. “Mother, you can never know my joy in taking your daughter as my wife. Please, take these 10 ephahs of grain.” He motioned for some of the men behind him to bring the bride price. Both Ruth’s and Naomi’s eyes widened at the amount of food brought to her. Boaz was not finished. “Take 10 of my goats and 3 of my milk cows.” He once again motioned for  a couple men to bring the animals. They came up, bowed before Naomi, and presented her with Boaz’s gifts.
            “Kind Boaz, what can I say? This is so much more than I could imagine. You are so thoughtful in giving such a large bride price. May God bless you.” She smiled and then bent down to take off her sandal to make the deal final. As he reached out to take her sandal, he said “No, thank you Naomi. I could give you all my land and still, your daughter would be worth more. You’ve given me a magnificent treasure.” He took her sandal and turned to smile at Ruth. She nearly melted right there. Then, looking at Naomi, Ruth smiled and hugged her. As Ruth leaned in Naomi whispered, “Do not be afraid to love your husband. God will look down on it and I know that Mahlon would not want you to be sad. Don’t let your past sorrows live your life. Be sure to have struggles of joy, rather than struggles of grief. Let your joy shine.” Then aloud she said, “May God bless your marriage and may He bring your wife many children, even in your old age.”
            “Come with us Mother!” Boaz replied. “I am bringing my wife home and we shall celebrate. Come join us!”
            “Yes, I shall come with you! Let’s go celebrate this great happiness!”
Chapter 14

            As the procession led the newlyweds to their new home, Ruth’s mind was full of questions. What had happened at the city gates? What had Boaz said to have Olmech refuse to marry her? Was this something God looked well on? Had she stepped out of her bounds in proposing to Boaz instead of letting him come to her as it should have been done? Could she really be a good wife to her husband? Could she be trusted, be shrewd, and have generosity towards the needy; could she enhance her husband’s public reputation? Would she have devotion to her family? She was a Moabitess and yet, this high standing Israelite had married her. Had he only married her to fulfill family obligations or were there any feelings for her?
            How long could she last in his household if there were no feelings for her in his heart? It wouldn’t be long. Mahlon had loved her deeply and he showed her daily. When he died, she was devastated. She didn’t know if she could live with a man and pretend to be happy when she was desperately in love with him. If he had no feelings for her, it would be like loving a dead man. There was no one to return the feelings when she needed a loving glance or an affectionate caress.
            Ruth started when she felt someone tap her shoulder.
            “Boaz!” she said, surprised to see him. “Why aren’t you with your friends, being joyous!?” She smiled at him, trying to show him the confidence in their marriage that she did not have.
            “Ruth,” he said, forcing her to look at him “I can’t be joyful when you are over here by yourself. Are you saddened by what has happened?”
            “Oh no!” replied Ruth, pulling back from his touch. “It’s not that at all; I’m very happy.” She smiled again, hoping she could disguise her restlessness.
            “Ruth, please, let me know what’s troubling you. I can’t enjoy anything when you’re like this. I want to help you.”
            Ruth turned around to face the wall so she wouldn’t have to see his pleading eyes. Moments like these made her want to forget everything in her past and run into his waiting embrace... but what if....what if...what if. There were too many questions for her to keep up the masquerade, especially when Boaz was standing right beside her. “Please, go. I need time to think and to pray. Leave me be, I beg of you, Husband.” She heard him sigh and then walk away. “Thank you,” she whispered. Her confidence in their marriage was gone. She didn’t know what was right, and what was wrong. She didn’t know how Boaz felt for her. Was she right in asking for time, or should she have gone with him and been joyful, ignoring her “what ifs”? As her questions kept coming, she slipped off her chair and fell to the ground. Everything was falling apart. Her sobs wracked her body as she tried to understand everything that was going on.

 Chapter 15

            The guests had left the party and Boaz and Ruth were alone at last. Ruth was trying to avoid Boaz, but it seemed as if she didn’t need to. He had disappeared and was doing his own things. Ruth began to feel as if she had made a mistake in proposing to him. How could she live a marriage on her own? She could not have the love for both of them. She couldn’t live on her love alone. A marriage involved two loving each other. She decided that she would show love to Boaz any way she could, and maybe one day he would turn around and love her back. She went in search of him and found him standing in the fields.
            “Boaz,” she whispered, trying not to startle him, “Thank you for giving a celebration in our honor. I know that our marriage will last. You’ve shown that you are a truly honorable man by marrying me so that I can continue my husband’s name.” Boaz turned and looked at her and Ruth saw the tears in his eyes. She could hardly resist the urge to run up and hug him, but somehow she endured.
            “Ruth, do you think the only reason I married you was to fulfill a family obligation?” His words were harsh and accusatory. “If that’s the only reason I took you as my wife, why am I so interested in your happiness? Why was I even concerned with your well-being during the festivity?” He turned away from her, unable to keep his composure. “Ruth,” his voice cracked and she had to strain to understand him, “I love you like I’ve loved no other, and you return it by saying that it’s only a family obligation?” Ruth was frozen to the spot. She felt as if she had ripped him apart. When she asked him for something she wanted and when he returned it, she threw it in his face. What kind of wife was she?
            “If family obligation is all you desire, so be it. I’ll fulfill the duty that is now placed upon me and you will not hear me complain. I just hope that one day, obligation might turn to love.” Boaz walked away from her into the fields and let her sit in her torment.
            What was she to do? All along Boaz had wanted to love her, but she was stubborn and unbelieving. She had pushed the one thing that she had wanted the most away. Boaz was suffering and it was her own fault. How could she tell him how she felt? How could she explain the anguish she suffered when she imagined a life without his love? She had lived without love for many years, and when it finally came from her beloved Mahlon, it was snatched away from her. Now, no one had taken anything, she had pushed it away herself. What kind of wicked person am I?
            As Ruth walked back into their house, she knew that she would not be able to face Boaz again. She had embarrassed herself, and now she had hurt him. She would never forgive herself. Stamping into the dining room, she threw herself against the wall in a fury.
            “Adonai!” She shrieked, “Where are you! I asked for your deliverance and you give me this!? I came all the way from my home to do as I believed you were calling me and I get this?! What do you want me to do?” She threw herself against the wall again and began to sob uncontrollably. “You promised to take care of me! You promised to bring me joy after Mahlon died! Where is that joy now?!” She sunk to the ground in a heap of angry tears. She looked up at the heavens and hoarsely whispered, “Adonai, if you are all powerful, I beg of you to bring us back together. If this is what you had in mind, unite us. I can’t stand living with a dead love. I need your help. We need your help.” As her tears cascaded down her face, she buried her head in her knees. Her sobs shook her body. Ruth sat there until it began to get dark. Feeling exhausted, she fell asleep against the cold wall, regretting what she had done that day.