is skilled at handling considerable humor!"
-New York Times
If I was still bitter about what happened to me, I might have titled today's entry "Rejection". Because that's what it feels like, right? When something that you want so badly comes right to the point where it could happen and then someone pulls the plug, you can't help but feel rejected, thrown away, devalued or discarded. In 2013 I was lost in admiration of someone that rejected me. I never even knew that a person so perfect could exist, but then he walked in the door on a sunny day and everything changed. As I got to know him, I was astonished by how much we had in common. It was as if God was showing me exactly what was possible. And then he lost interest. And it wasn't just that. At the same time I was up for 3 separate high profile contracts. Any one of them would have been a career-changer for me artistically. I was under so much pressure to be at my best. And I tried. But one by one, I lost each contract. In the moment, rejection feels like it's all about you. After all, it's you standing there...your name, your face, your heart, your work. So when the answer "no" comes, it feels incredibly personal. And it can hurt very deeply.
I am so thrilled that this small portion of Ruth's story remained in tact for us to read and analyze. Because at some point, that feeling of rejection will come to knock on your door as well and you'll have to answer. How you answer and how you handle the fallout will be critical. Boaz has presented a choice opportunity to a potential kinsman redeemer for Ruth. But before he gives away his opportunity to have her, he decided to conduct a little test. First, he offers this suitor the land. It's a great deal. An opportunity that's a win-win, and the suitor won't need to sacrifice anything of himself to take away the spoils. Eagerly, the suitor says yes. He'll take the extra land, no questions asked. But then Boaz gives the catch. The land isn't exactly free. It comes with responsibility. The new owner must agree to take in the widow of the previous landowner. The new owner will have to marry her, give her children, tend and take care of the land, but he won't get credit for any of his efforts. Everything that he does will need to be done under the name of the widow's deceased husband so that his lineage is not cut off and his life is never forgotten. The new owner will have to give a selfless sacrifice for the rest of his life. He will give everything and seemingly receive nothing in return. It's an ingenious plan if you think about it! Boaz gets to see, in front of all of their town elders, what truly lies in the heart of this potential kinsman redeemer. Is he willing to be truly selfless? Or is this an act just to profit with little or no responsibility? The kinsman reveals his heart with the following statement, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance". And thus we all see the critical mistake that he makes.
There are two ways we can look at this scenario. We can say that Ruth was rejected. After all she'd been through, losing her husband, moving to a strange land, becoming a destitute beggar, risking her reputation and life to seek out Boaz in the middle of a place she doesn't belong. After all of this, her name and everything about her dismal state is spelled out publicly before the highest leaders of this community, and in return she is coldly rejected and discarded. We could say, "Why did God deal this wonderful person this final, horrible blow?" Or we can look at it a completely different way. Did you notice that in all the while we were talking about this potential suitor and kinsman redeemer, we never mention him by name? Interesting, right? That's because with his decision, he lost his opportunity to be remembered for all time. He becomes nameless and faceless, and all we know about him is that in his selfishness he rejected one of the most important women to ever live. All we ever know about him is that he makes the mistake of a lifetime. This amazing, luminous being that the whole community has said is so virtuous - he loses her. He didn't want to mar his own fortune, but Ruth was his real fortune. She was the prize. She held within her the future of a nation, the lineage of God himself. She is one of only a few women in the Bible mentioned in the lineage of Christ. Ruth's blood ran through the veins of King David, the most gifted songwriter of all time and a man renowned as "a man after Gods own heart". Her blood ran through the veins of King Solomon, the wisest leader who ever lived. A king who wrote proverbs that we still quote thousands of years later in popular culture. Ruth was the prize! But this nameless, faceless suitor rejected her because all he could see was that she did not fit into his own plan for wealth and prestige.
Yes, I could have named this day's entry 'Rejection', but to me this story isn't about Ruth being rejected. It's about how Ruth becomes the choice selection of a brilliant and wise man. It's about how theirs becomes the most celebrated love story in human history. Boaz's vision is not clouded by vain glory and selfishness. He can see her clearly. He doesn't see ragged clothing and a face that didn't fit into his plan. He saw a woman who worked hard, loved the loveless, sacrificed everything for God, and who would speak sweetly to him in the night and soothe his fear. He saw her as the queen she was.
I challenge you today to open up your eyes about what you may perceive as rejection. What we sometimes think is rejection actually is God navigating us to His choice, a much better choice. Don't give the nameless, faceless people of this world a second thought after they have made their costly mistake. Woe to them because they cannot see what God sees. They have lost their chance at seizing a destiny much bigger than anything they could have planned on their own. Focus instead on the plan that God is navigating you toward. It is perfect. It will lift you into your destiny. And you will never need to look back.
This very short verse is the crux of everything we've been discussing for more than a month now. You will realize your pinnacle! It's coming! It's here, in fact! You have gotten your marching orders from God himself, let go of all the dead weight and negativity, and now you'll walk through the door. Isn't it funny how this seemingly insignificant verse holds the key to everything that Ruth has longed and worked for? It's her beginning! I think God likes to do things under the radar sometimes. When we expect fanfare and trumpets, God rides in on a lowly donkey. He doesn't need to be flashy because He's God. If your streets are paved with gold, I don't imagine you are impressed much with earthly spectacle. And so this nameless, faceless suitor says four simple words to Boaz "Buy it for thee" and then he takes off his shoe and hands it to him. And that's it. The entire trajectory of Ruth's life has changed with 4 words and a shoe. Some people may think that God doesn't have a sense of humor, but I beg to differ! Four words and a shoe!!!
When you really think about it, why would there be much spectacle? God created you with this destiny in mind. He actually fashioned your being to hold the capacity of this destiny. This plan was set into motion long before time began. It is us who must fall into place and realize what He's doing. God has been celebrating you reaching this pinnacle for all time. When you sat on your couch eating ice cream and crying, He was chanting your name and cheering. When you thought all hope was lost and made to give up, He smiled and patted you on the back knowing that you would indeed get back up again! So it's just us that needs to come to the party. God's celebration of you has been in motion for quite some time. Don't be surprised when suddenly you get that email, letter, signed contract in hand with your dreams spelled out in plain letters. It was written in heaven a long time ago!
One of the greatest and most encouraging memories for me is a message I received from a friend about landing his first Broadway show. He sent out a simple message that said, "One day you're waiting tables, and the next you're going to Broadway!" It was such a surprising and thrilling moment to see that message. Any actor can tell you that their first Broadway show is a huge deal. It is a singular vote of confidence that the work you've been doing your whole life is valuable. It is the seminal moment in your career that validates you as a theatrical artist. And as big as this moment is, the news of achieving it comes to most actors as the result of a single phone call or email. A very small notification of a life-changing decision.
Four words and a shoe. That's all it took to change Ruth from a beggar to one of the wealthiest women in her community, loved and wanted by the man of her dreams, with purpose and potential. This transaction had already taken place, but Ruth was still waiting at home. She had no word yet of what had happened behind the scenes! She sat in what I can imagine was a pretty humble home with Naomi, and had no clue that she was now the owner of Boaz's lavish home and fortune. She had already been there, when she and Boaz shared their first meal together aside all of the harvest workers. What do you imagine her thoughts were as she sat there seeing all of this opulence and splendor, sharing a lovely meal - enough for dozens of workers? She was probably amazed. What do you think she felt as Boaz personally reached out a fancy serving tray to her so that she could have her choice? She was probably reeling and swooning with wonder at everything she was seeing. So much so that she had to bring some back to Naomi! Now imagine what she would have felt if she knew that within a matter of days she would be owner and ruler over everything that she was seeing, tasting, and experiencing!!
Waiting in her small house, Ruth had already achieved her pinnacle and yet had no idea. Now let me ask you one more thing. As she waited in her home, do you think Ruth was sitting there nervous, doubting, fretting, worrying? Or do you think she was packing? We may never know for sure, but we do know that Ruth was a pretty bold woman of faith. And so my guess is that when Boaz told her he would take care of it, and then Naomi asked her wait, that Ruth went into her room and began packing!! If she truly believed what Boaz had told her, she knew she was going to go somewhere better than where she was that day. She knew that she wasn't going to stay in that tiny little home, eeking by with next to nothing. She was going to her next level! I want to encourage you today to believe so fiercely in God's plan for you that you have the same level of assurance in your heart that Ruth did. Your pinnacle is already here! You may not see it yet. Your surroundings may still be that of a pauper, but you are actually rich! You already have possession of everything you are believing for. All you're doing now is waiting for that message to arrive telling the world what has already been approved in heaven.
Now that we have accepted that our pinnacle is here, it is time to start acting like it! Regardless of what we see in the natural, God has approved it and we are owners of all we desire according to His plan. So we cannot afford to act as if we are not equipped to walk in the power that He has given to us. In this final week, we are going to talk about what we should be doing now that we have ascended into our pinnacle. It is easier said than done to operate at the level you've been called to. Any business owner will tell you that the one thing that's more important than having a successful start up plan, is having a plan to sustain your business after it is fully operational. And any powerful person will tell you, that the only thing more difficult than obtaining power is maintaining it! Legendary artists like Elvis and Michael Jackson didn't stay at the top of the charts because they kept doing the same things they did when they were unknown. They had to keep the momentum moving forward. They had to evolve to maintain a leading position in their work. And make no mistake, so will you.
In Ruth 4:9-10, we find Boaz shouting from the rooftops that this amazing transition has taken place. He has taken possession of everything of concern to Naomi and Ruth. He's taken Ruth as his wife. He is righting everything that was wrong in their lives. And he is so excited about it that he's literally yelling it aloud so that all of the elders and all of the people of this town can hear it!! It's the Biblical version of a press release!!
I can imagine that Ruth got the news either by word of mouth, or literally by hearing Boaz proclaiming it loudly from the city gate. Either way, it had to be quite a shock to be so publicly on display so quickly. Princess Diana of Wales had weeks and months of preparation for her transition. Ruth had only a few hours. Think about the excitement, the immediate energy, the attention. Think about the fear. Boaz was wealthy on a scale that Ruth had not know before. Naomi had not welcomed Ruth into a poor family by any means. I remind you that though the famine had caused them loss, they had the means to transition to a new country to seek fortune. It takes means to do that. It takes money and connections. It wasn't until all of the men died that their fortunes truly took a nose dive. Without husbands or any ability to make money, the famine soon took everything that they had and thrust them into severe poverty. And on a side note, I believe that much of what Boaz admired in Ruth was that he could see something regal in her demeanor and style, even though she was destitute. But despite all of this, the place Ruth was ascending to was much great than even she had known before. Think about it. Boaz bought all of the property and debts of all 3 husbands. He purchased all of their lands and willingly purposed it for their legacies. A great analogy today might be if a businessman decided to buy not one, but three companies all at once - taking on all of the properties, interests and debts from those companies, and then giving it all away to charity rather than keeping it for profit. In today's world, very few businessmen could do something of that magnitude. And that is in essence what Boaz had done without batting an eye. So we can safely say that Ruth was transitioning into a very intimidating situation to say the least!
Like Ruth, you're transitioning into a place you may be intimidated by. You may think, "Yeah, I've got some training, some ability, but I've never been called upon to execute anything like this!" Once you have a clear idea of what your pinnacle entails, you may wonder if you can really do it. Let me encourage you today to not be afraid of what you see before you. Change is good. Oh sure, it hurts. Stretching your abilities is going to be painful, but it's good for you. You are not so small and fragile as you may think. You are not so feeble, and so weak. Stop viewing yourself as the peon that you once felt you were. There are tools within you that you don't know about yet because you haven't been required to use them. There are experiences from your past that you thought perhaps were just random, or just painful. But you learned lessons from those experiences that you don't realize yet, and those lessons are about to emerge and serve you. God has placed gifts within you that you haven't had to use until now. Just because you've never been asked to do something doesn't mean you're incapable of doing it. Tell yourself now that you won't allow yourself to be afraid of or intimidated by the magnitude of the changes happening around you. You are the child of royalty. Everything that belongs to your Father is at your disposal. You are gifted and competent beyond measure. Let's pray:
Lord, we thank You for bringing us to the point that we can be fully confident in the pinnacle set before us. We honor You for bringing us this far. Our faith in You is strong! Now Father, in Your name we cast down every ounce of fear that tries to rear it's ugly head. We do not trust in our own might and in our own strength. We trust in Your might, which is limitless. We trust in Your knowledge, which is infinite. You would never bring us to a place that we were not equipped to operate in. We ask that You now give us the tools we need to successfully execute Your will. We ask that Your strength flood our being. We ask to see with Your eyes. We ask to think with Your mind. We ask to be equipped with all of the things we know about and even the things that are coming, so that You may be pleased with us and glorified. We embrace this change with boldness and power, and we thank You in advance for the victory. Amen!
We've all heard that popular adage, 'fake it til you make it'. Perhaps you've even said it. The implication is that you intend act as if you belong in a place that you in fact do not, until at some point you really do belong there. But here is what my journey in 2013 taught me: If you keeping 'faking it til you make it', at some point people are going to see you as that thing, and then you'll be called upon to BE it. Oh yes! Read that again if you need to because some of you may be wondering why all of a sudden you've been invited into places you've only dreamed of before. You think it might be some kind of mistake. No, friends. God doesn't make mistakes. For a very long time I would pretend to belong in the world that I was serving in. What I didn't realize is that I didn't have to fake anything. I did belong there. I'd failed to realize the experiences of my life were leading me there at every turn. And when I arrived, I was consistently invited to step out of serving and engage on a level that I had only dreamed of!
We have discussed in depth now the reality that God has transitioned you to your pinnacle now. It is done. It is finished. You're it! Why are you still thinking like a pauper? You are being invited to the King's table, are you not? Why are you still acting as if you don't belong there? In verse 11 and 12 we see the elders of this city embrace Boaz's declaration and proclaim amazing things for Ruth. But Ruth isn't there. She is still at home waiting, seemingly oblivious to the change that has taken place. And yet everyone around her has shifted in their thinking about her. To them, she is now worthy, famous, and one of their own. But in her mind, she may very well have still been a beggar. Let me ask you something. Do others see you as something wonderful and amazing that you are still oblivious to? Do other people see you as worthy, while you sit at home in the mindset of a pauper? You need to realize that the shouting and celebrations that you are hearing afar off are for you! Allow yourself to hear and understand what God is saying about you! Stop faking it. You ARE it! Be it! Stand in it. Own it. You're not doing anyone any favors by not owning up to your pinnacle.
In verse 13 we make three significant discoveries. First, we see that Boaz "took Ruth". He didn't just proclaim her to be his at the city gate and then leave her in her tiny poor house. He scooped her up and put her where she now rightfully belonged. And I love that we read this right after this big celebration at the city gate. The implication is that he went and got her immediately. The transition was right away. He didn't wait. God is not sitting around waiting to bring you into the fullness of His plan. When He says yes, it's a resounding YES! It's immediate. It's instant. It's complete. You won't have time to sit on your hands or meander about it. You've got to start operating at your pinnacle. You've got to just go. You've got to elevate! Second, we see that Ruth "was his wife". This implies that though Boaz had laid claim to her, she willingly ascended to her new position. He asked, but Ruth had to accept. Now that God has invited you to your pinnacle, don't get caught in the trap of refusing His goodness. Say yes! Ascend! It is possible for you to delay or refuse the blessing of God. People do it every day. I've done it. You can bury your potential in the ground and never invest it or allow it to develop and grow. God is waiting on your "yes". The next time you are invited to ascend, say yes and go joyfully! Think about Ruth in that moment, put away your fear, and run toward your destiny!! Third, we see that "the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son". God invites, you accept, and then you'll start to see fruit come forth. Ruth didn't ascend to her pinnacle so she could just live in the lap of luxury for the rest of her life. Her purpose there was to bring forth a royal lineage. When you say yes, you are in fact saying yes to fulfilling your purpose at that pinnacle. There is a reason God wants you there! Don't make the mistake of becoming selfish. Not now. This is go time! Prepare yourself to see legitimate fruit being born within you. You won't see bastard fruit, or fruit that won't carry forward the work of God. The significance of Ruth having a son is so that we can know that the fruit we bear will be capable of carrying forward God's work to yet higher levels! It is a cultural analogy to show us that God means business...this plan is a lasting one!
We talked yesterday about seeing fruit come forth as a result of our ascending to our pinnacle. And today we see why that fruit is necessary. Everything we are experiencing is to glorify God; to display His greatness in the earth so that people can tap into His love, His power, and His purpose for their lives. Ruth bears a son, and all of a sudden the focus shifts back to Naomi and all of those women who surrounded her upon her return from Moab. Remember on Day 11 and 12 when we first met these women? Remember their accusations of "Is this Naomi"? Now we begin to see God's plan unfold. These same people are now proclaiming "Blessed be the Lord"! Before all they could see was the problem, now they see that God is bigger than any problem. Your experience has power. Lives can be completely transformed if you only have the boldness to let yourself be a light. We can't be so naive as to think that when we go through famine, drought, dry places, and deserts, that it is all about us. God is trying to make Himself known to many, many others. He will take you through dark times so that His greatness can be revealed not only to us, but to everyone around us.
It breaks my heart to see people who I know love God and live according to His will, remain silent about His love and His goodness. Oh, it breaks my heart so much! I think they get lost in the weeds of not wanting to offend anyone. And I get it. We live in a time when we want to be tolerant and respectful of others, so that they will in turn be tolerant and respectful of us. But I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about evangelizing people into a religion. This is so much more personal than that. God is a person. He is our creator. And people are dying without knowing that He wants to connect with them. The last thing we all need is another religious service. What we need is a relationship with God Himself. To call out to Him and allow Him to introduce Himself into our daily lives. Going to church, synagogue or mosque is wonderful, but it doesn't mean anything if you walk out the same person you walked in as. It is a living, active connection to God that brings about true peace, meaningful selflessness, lasting joy, and effective love.
I know without a doubt that if it wasn't for God's infinite mercy on my life I would be a statistic right now. I might have fallen into any number of desperate situations, particularly in 2013 when my life spiraled so deeply into depression that I couldn't function. But God's mercy was greater than my desire to do wrong or my deep depression. He held me close even when I rejected Him. How could I ever move through life without talking about the gifts I've received because of my relationship with Him? I want to challenge you today to be open and honest with people when your success is on display. Don't sit back and take credit for what has taken place. Let others see transparently what can happen when they tap into the plan that God has for them. No one reaches their pinnacle because they are the most rosy, lovely, wonderful person. If the truth be told, we all have areas that we repeatedly fail in each day. So don't take all the glory for yourself when others ask how you rose above. Give them the tools to take control of their lives too. This is the point! This is why you traversed through everything that you did. Someone needs desperately to hear what you went through so that they can latch onto their destiny as well. Someone needs to know there is a power greater than themselves, and a miraculous change accessible to them. Someone needs to know that God has created them with a plan in mind as well. That information doesn't come from oblivion. They will hear it because you were not afraid to give glory to the One who deserved it, publicly.
The greatness that you will now operate in will need to be nurtured to maturity. Ruth is no fool. Despite the praise and accolades of all the people around her, she only trusts her precious new baby with one person, Naomi. For ten years Ruth was married to Mahlon with nothing to show for it. Can you imagine the amount of turmoil that she endured because of her barrenness? In a time when a woman's worth was calculated by how many male children she could produce, the scrutiny Ruth was under was incredible. Orpah was in the same boat. Here she was, a young woman of Moab who made the controversial move of marrying a foreign man. His customs were different, and more importantly she had to convert religions to marry him. I'm sure it was all exciting in the beginning, but year after year Orpah had to have asked herself some questions when she didn't conceive. Was she being punished for converting and marrying into this strange family? Her own family and friends also would have begun to look at her suspiciously. Year after year, she would have turned more and more despondent, not knowing why neither she nor Ruth could conceive a child. Surely something was wrong with this foreign family. And then, Naomi's two sons died. It may have seemed like the final verdict was cast. This family was cursed. Orpah's mind most likely flooded with despair. How could she have made such a tragic choice? No wonder she gave up and succumbed to her desire to return to her mother's home in Moab. And all this while, Ruth was beside Orpah's side enduring the same scrutiny, questions, and despair. Ten years of marriage with nothing to show for it. And there are instances in the Bible that describe miscarriages and stillbirths, so we would have been aware if she was able to conceive but not able to carry a child to term. That wasn't it. Neither Ruth nor Orpah could even get pregnant.
And after all of the pain, the dashed hopes, and the tearful prayers Ruth finds herself remarried to the man of her dreams and having a baby for the first time. Naomi had been with her through all of this, giving her sound advice, explaining this new culture and homeland, planning their resurgence, all the while fighting through her own deep depression. The bond between these two remarkable women surely was carved out in heaven. Ruth wouldn't dare allow anyone else to nurse her baby. The only person who could do it was someone who understood the cost that had been paid for that special child. You too have an incredible gift within you. You have toiled for years to see this day, spent many tearful nights longing to see the fulfillment of your calling. You cannot afford to trust this moment to someone who doesn't understand the price you've paid to get here. And moreover, you cannot afford to trust this moment to anyone who doesn't have a sound, clear connection with God. Ascending to your pinnacle is the most critical time in your life. You don't need to be paranoid, but you do need to be aware of the dark forces that long to steal your destiny from you. Choose those who nurture your gift very carefully.
I can't listen to just any spiritual advice or advisor. I can't surround myself with just any person. The enemy is wily and smart. He won't try to steal your gift at a moment of strength. He'll try at a time of vulnerability. People may come along who seem like they can be trusted, but you should remain prayerful and vigilant. Look at the hearts of the people around you. What is their relationship with God like? You'll know by their fruit. Are they like God? A child of God will look like their Heavenly Father. Their actions will have His fingerprint. Are they longsuffering? Peaceful? Slow to anger? Do they love the poor and give selflessly those who can do nothing for them? Do they hold Godliness and righteousness in high regard? It may seem like this is a tall bill to fill, but I'm not talking about people who are perfect. I'm talking about people with the spiritual maturity to help you to continue developing into the person you are destined to be. Naomi took this precious child and laid it in her bosom. She didn't treat the child like any other baby. She treated Ruth's baby with special tenderness and with love. She cared for the child as if it was her own. And think about that for a moment. What would it mean to Naomi, who had lost both of her sons prematurely, to hold this beautiful baby boy in her arms? She was literally holding in her arms everything she had prayed and wept for. Losing this child was not an option for Naomi. She would have more quickly given up her own life than to forfeit this child to the plan of the enemy. And THAT is what you should be looking for when you decide who to allow to nurture your gift. Find people who understand that your failure is not an option. You must succeed. You must thrive. You must fulfill everything that your assignment entails. God's plan is too precious to fall by the wayside.
There are very few people that I go to for nurturing. To nurture someone is more than just mentorship. Mentors are wonderful and they care a great deal about your development in a strategic sense. Nurturers are spiritual mother and fathers. You can bring the most sensitive spiritual questions to them and trust that they will not attack or devour your trust. To spend time with them is to feed your spirit. And when you leave their presence you feel refueled and healed. Let's pray:
Lord, thank you for each and every person who is reading these words now. They have come so far, trusting in Your plan for their lives. They have given to You everything, knowing that You love and care for them. I ask, Father, that You send to them nurturers. Send to them people who will become spiritual mothers and fathers, and who will feed their faith at this critical time. I cancel the attack of the enemy right now, and request Your protection over every aspect of their lives. Enemy of God, I address you directly and tell you that you cannot have these precious children of God. You cannot touch what God the Father has blessed and brought forth. We dispel you right now in the holy name of Jesus. Now my Heavenly Father, I ask that You give every person reading these words clear direction as to who should have access to their gift at this time, and who should not. I pray that You give them the strength to remove people who do not belong in their lives. And I pray that as these new nurturers come in, that You would give them specific and prophetic words of healing, restoration, and comfort. Heal every broken place inside and bring refreshing and renewal into their lives. Thank you in advance for Your faithfulness, Lord. Amen.
I wanted to talk briefly not only about Naomi's part in this verse, but also about Ruth. Ruth chose at this critical moment of fulfillment to share her gift with someone. We spoke of the significance of Naomi nurturing this precious child, but let's dig a little deeper. Ruth could easily have chosen to nurse this child herself, and it would not have been selfish or out of the norm. After ten years, a famine, and burying her husband, she deserved to enjoy every aspect of marriage and motherhood. But she didn't do that. At the time when she deserved most to enjoy the rewards of her transition, Ruth remembered Naomi. We talked yesterday about Naomi laying this child in her bosom tenderly and sweetly. But today I want to talk about the last section of this verse. Naomi didn't just hold Ruth's baby close to her bosom, loving and coddling it. She "became nurse" to Ruth's child. Ruth allowed Naomi to share the most intimate and significant experience of her own personal transition: nursing. Why? I believe that she did it because the only person who could have enjoyed it more than Ruth herself was Naomi, who had nursed two beautiful baby boys many years before. The act of nursing would have held special memories and significance for Naomi. It would have made her feel like a mother again, after having lost her own children so tragically. Ruth shared her reward with Naomi in a way that demonstrates why she was elected for such an incredible transition in the first place. I doubt many of us would make a choice of such sacrifice and meaning.
Sharing your reward with those who helped you to get where you are is a form of honoring God. Not many leaders understand this, which is why they struggle with maintaining their success. What you have achieved does not belong to you. It was given to you by a benevolent and gracious God. You have been given stewardship over this blessing so that you can fulfill God's plan. There are people that God has placed in your life that have toiled and served alongside you. They may be content to be invisible, but it is your responsibility to share your reward with them. Do not overlook them. Do not dare say, "Well, we pay her in this or that way, so she is compensated for what she has done." No. Share YOUR reward. Oh yeah, I'm probably stepping on some toes right now, aren't I?! Because we all want to keep the reward for ourselves. It is ours, after all. We want to lay back and hog up all the goodness. But while you hog up all that goodness for yourself, to others you look selfish and bloated. We live in a world that rewards when people brag about the spoils of war. They openly flaunt how much they have, and we pat them on the back for it. In turn, giving is done in secret, if it's done at all. This is the opposite scenario. Ruth openly allows Naomi the honor of nursing her baby. And the whole city esteems her for it.
You may or may not notice obvious opportunities to share your reward with those who helped you get to where you are. So you need to seek out those opportunities. It is an act that you must do on purpose, because your flesh will fight you on it. Your flesh will review all of the ways the full reward could be better spent in your hands, but don't fall for that. Remember Naomi. Remember her sacrifice. Ruth knew that it wasn't enough that Naomi move into Boaz's beautiful home alongside her. She knew it wasn't enough that their husband's memories be respected. Those symbolic gestures were not going to fulfill the emotional longing in Naomi's heart. There would still be a hole there where her family once was. Ruth, who had beheld firsthand Naomi's despair, would have been keenly aware of this. And so she sacrificed something very personal to the one person who had been by her side, guarding, guiding, and advising. I have sadly seen revered ministers of God overlook their assistants and servants. I have even been one of those overlooked servants. Yes, all of our service should be directly to the Lord above. And yes, it is He that ultimately gives us our reward. But don't gloss over the love you can share when you share your reward. Not with every tom, dick, and harry, but with people who walked the long path from famine to fulfillment with you. You have the ability to help restore their passion and commitment. Find those opportunities and freely give.
If there was any lingering doubt in your mind about why we must all reach our pinnacle, you'll find it here in verse 17. The neighbors of Naomi who moments ago began celebrating Naomi and Ruth, have now turned their eyes to God. It is them who give this blessed little child his name, Obed. The name Obed in Hebrew means "worshipper". How amazing! This is the full circle moment for not only Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, but of an entire city of people. The famine had robbed them all of everything. The story of Naomi's family is only one of what would have been many stories from this town. They'd gone through years of scraping by, loss, and despair. And now they end this journey with worship. If you ever doubted the reason why you had to walk through the difficult days that you did, this is the reason...worship. God calls each of us to ever-deeper places of worship, love, connection, and relationship. So many people believe their purpose here on this earth is to just float through life, responsible to no one, connected to no one, living only for themselves. But that isn't true. There is a God who longs to place His hand upon our hearts. He longs to give us meaning, purpose, and focus. If we venture through life without Him, our experiences will only lead us right back to face to face encounters with Him. We'll be continually asked the question, 'Do we venture into a deeper understanding and relationship with God, or do we back away?'
This community had gone all the way to the brink. And even though they'd recovered much of the financial loss, it took seeing one of their most prominent families brought to its breaking point for them to be reminded of what they'd truly lost. And that loss wasn't financial, but spiritual. It was their relationship with God. It was the connection to worship and communion with the One who is greater than all of us and makes our lives worth living. And isn't it interesting that they say "there is a son born to Naomi", when Ruth is the rightful mother of the child? This shows us that they identified themselves even more closely with Naomi. It is a moment of true self-reflection for them. Though both women had lost their family and possessions, Ruth had still managed to hold onto her faith. Remember, it was Naomi who publicly declared that God had turned His back on her. Ruth was there to love Naomi and to be strong while she was weak. These neighbors had known Naomi all her life. They watched her grow up, get married, have two beautiful sons. They also watched her abandon her property and livelihood when the famine was at it's worst. And then sadly they saw her return 10 years later a shell of the woman who had left, and even more impoverished than before. Now here Naomi was, nursing a beautiful baby boy who would inherit all that her deceased husband and sons had left behind plus all that Boaz had amassed. She was restored to an even greater place than she'd had at the start. She had rediscovered her love of God, was filled with joy, and was living with purpose. Naomi was not a foreigner. She was one of them. And so she became a symbol of their own struggles. Attributing this child to Naomi is simply an acknowledgement that restoration has come to her family and her name. Everything she has lost, she has now regained...and more! This entire community sees that this miracle is full and deep in a way that only God can do.
So they name the child Obed, "worshipper", because now the full community has been restored to right vision and right relationship with God. They are no longer separated from Him, and the spiritual closeness and tenderness that they all longed for has been restored. Friends, God wants to use you in this way as well! The experience of your witness belongs more to the people around you than it even does to you. It has the ability to bear greater meaning for them than it even does for you. Why? Because we often see ourselves with clouded judgement. Others can see us so much more clearly. They also love us much more deeply and purely. It can be heartbreaking to see a close loved one walk through a dark and desperate situation. The hearts of your family and close friends are knit closely to yours whether you want to admit that or not. What hurts you hurts them even more. And when they see a true change and transformation in your life, it is more undeniable to them than it is to you. Yes, it is your witness, but it's not for your sake. It's for the sake of those around you. Get ready for others to latch onto your story and give it a name that is meaningful to their own lives. Don't be afraid or intimidated when that happens. For some, your story may be about diligence in the face of adversity, for others it may be about love, strength, or faith in God. But no matter what meaning they pay to the story it all leads back to one place, worship!
It's always interesting to me to see the listing of generations in the Bible. At first it's intimidating seeing so many unusual names. And if you're like me, you probably weren't raised learning the significance of each name and person, so to read these sometimes endless lists of names can be daunting. But if you dare to do even a little digging, what you'll find is that these are very real people with stories that grab you and pull you in. They aren't saints. They aren't faultless, perfect individuals who threw balls of lightening from their wrists! They are ordinary people, who found their strength in critical moments. They are not unlike us. Ending this beautiful love story with a list of generations shows us just how human we are. After witnessing all of his great wisdom and generosity, we are reminded at the very end of this story that Boaz is the son of Salmon. Who is Salmon? A wealthy, powerful leader. Dig just a little deeper, and you find that while Salmon is his father, Rahab is Boaz's mother. Rahab was a prostitute. Oh yeah, these are not perfect people at all! We get a great big spoonful of perspective right here at the end of this story, lest we raise these characters on pedestals that only God deserves. The son of a prostitute can be the great-grandfather of a king.
Boaz may have struggled all his life with feelings of being an outsider because of who his mother was. Yes, he inherited great fortune from his father Salmon, but what could he have gained from his mother? What value could a prostitute add to the life of a man who would bring forth a royal lineage? Perhaps he learned from her the value of embracing outsiders with hospitality and generosity. Perhaps she taught him to advocate for the rights of full citizenship for those who may have been born outside the community, but who pledge their love and lives to it. Perhaps she simply taught him to love the loveless, and regard the poor. Whatever the lessons learned, the legacy of Boaz listed here clarifies and humanizes the incredible story that we just read. Your legacy is not a singular point of light. It is built on the legacies of others who came before you - imperfect people trying to find their pinnacle in an imperfect world. Only you know what your family history holds. Only you know the names and people of significance in your life. Understanding where you fall in that lineage enhances the beauty of what your life means. Just like Naomi, Salmon, Ruth, Boaz, and Obed, your life is leading ever-upward to a higher purpose and calling. This list ends with King David, whom we all know very well. We've all heard the tale of David & Goliath. And perhaps we even know the tales of David with his best friend Jonathan, or his jealous leader King Saul, his mistress Bathsheba, and his son Solomon. King David is a man who is easily remembered as creative, talented, smart, charismatic, brave, strong, bold, fearful, revengeful, sneaky, a murderer, liar, adulterer, but also a worshipper. He was both great and weak, full of joy at times and then fully depressed. If someone so human can be used of God and remembered by all of us, then so can you. Reaching your pinnacle is not about being perfect. It's about loving God fully through every aspect of your life. It's about giving your fully-flawed self to Him each day so that someone else can see your example and do the same. The goal is not to be flawless, but to be like David and seek after the very heart of God.
You are standing on the shoulders of an innumerable list of people who may or may not have achieved everything that God designed for them. But they are gone now, and you are here. Make your life matter. Make every moment matter. Give yourself over fully to God's perfect plan for you. Embrace the ascent to your destiny. Be lovingly transparent to all who will listen. Tell them the story of God's great mercy on your behalf. Sit at the feet of your Creator and never stop getting His direction for your life. Nurture your gifts with relationships that bring growth and healing. If this list of generations were to continue, your name would be somewhere in the blank space left on the page. What do you want the world to know about you? What do you want the story of your life to be? Let it be that you ran after God with all of your heart and soul. That you never looked back and never gave up. Let the story of your life be that your passion for God lead you to peaks you could only dream of. Let the story be that you reached your pinnacle and never looked back!
Thank you for taking this precious journey with me! I hope that you were uplifted and challenged by it. The completion of this journey represents a pinnacle for me as well. It is my dream to live a life fully submitted to God and His plan, to encourage people in a transparent way, and to live with a generous, honest, and open heart. By reading this, you have helped me to continue my own ascent. Thank you! I hope that you will write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how this journey may have invigorated you and given you hope. It is now your turn to tell me your story. And I will rejoice with you as we both ascend higher! Let's seal this Pinnacle Project with a final prayer:
Dear precious Heavenly Father. Thank you so much for giving Your love to us. Thank you for providing for us a destiny that is greater than we could ever ask or think. Thank you for being a true Father to us and Lover to our souls. Lord, I pray for every person who has taken this journey with me. I pray that You strengthen them, encourage them, speak to them, and love on them. I pray that You reveal Yourself in ways they never knew You could. I pray that the depth of their relationship with You becomes a testimony to everyone around them. Lord, I ask that You seal the words of this Pinnacle Project onto the tablet of their hearts. Each day, I have prayed that you speak through me into the situations and concerns of their lives, and I'm so thankful that You have been faithful to do just that. Lord, I ask that no enemy steal the lessons and words of this journey from them. In the times of trouble, let them remember the plan that You have for them. Whisper words of comfort to them in the night. Let them always know that they are Your children, with access to all that a child of the King has access to. Strengthen their faith and knowledge of You. Tether their heart to Yours. Let them worship You in spirit and in truth. And let the witness of reaching their pinnacle travel to the ends of the earth and glorify You in heaven. Thank you again Lord for all that You have done. Now to You be all of the honor, glory, power and dominion forever! Amen!
is Sly, Wise & Funny!"