I remember the day Steve and I drove into Horsham, a large country town in western Victoria. We had left the city life of north Sydney to pursue the call of God and serve as the new Youth Pastors in country Victoria. When Steve was invited, I can still feel the sense of excitement as I said ‘Yes’ to moving to a place I had never seen or even been to. I had never been to the place and said ‘yes’ with no idea what Horsham was like, who the people were and what life looked like on the other side of my ‘yes’. We packed up our car and our things and took the long drive through the back of New South Wales and Victoria. A massive sign about 40 kilometers out of Horsham, welcomed us to their beautiful city and as I looked out the window in every direction…all I could see were the dry wheat fields of the Wimmera and it was only then I found myself wondering what I had signed up for.
When you have never been to a place but you have already chosen to cling to its people and immerse yourself in their culture before you even get there, it is an experience you will never forget. I remember looking over at Steve with eyes wide at his grin and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I also remember the feeling of total abandonment to the call of God and the freedom to choose his purpose over any pay cheque back in that apartment with the beautiful view. I remember the feeling of abandonment that draws me even now, to doing what can sometimes be counter culture. When others are paying off the 5 bedroom house around the corner from family or and their best fiends kids go to the same kinder and they are hanging with friends from their childhood, this abandonment can feel taxing and scary and sad but these are days God reminds me of his favour and blessing as we have pursued him and clung to him.
We have just turned the page from November to December and over the last few weeks I have once again found myself in the midst of ‘leaving a cleaving’. With my things all packed up, the house now on the market and my daughter’s primary school graduation tomorrow, at what will be her ‘old’ school, my Christmas tree still in a box waiting for me in my new temporary home ….I too am walking the dusty path to Bethlehem just like Ruth. There are many things that stand out to me as I read this story this morning.
Days like today, as I read about Ruth, she reminds me to see what I am clinging to and look closely at the people I have chosen to be ‘my people’.
I have left a number of my people and a number of places in my travels to get here. I have had to leave in order to cleave and cling to the people he is asking me to love and it can be a hard thing to leave and a hard thing to cling, but when we choose to love it is a reflection of the heart of my God for his people. Just like Ruth, Jesus left and chose to immerse himself in his people, to leave heaven and cleave to the people he had chosen to love.
Ruth 1:14-178 MSG
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Here is a woman yet to prove the faithfulness God before making this speech of abandonment. Ruth doesn’t need a back story…she doesn’t have a story about what God has done before. She only has Naomi’s sad story and the promise of A place called Bethlehem. Ruth has no story of what Yahweh has done for her family. I, at least have that. Her story of faith for that very reason, stirs me to leave and cleave….just like Christ who found himself in Bethlehem because a of a choice to leave and cleave, to immerse himself in the humanity of what would become his people. As I walk towards my own Bethlehem, just as Ruth did that day, I too am unaware of what my own Bethlehem looks like. She was clueless that her story would be scribed into the Christmas story and that Christ would be born in Bethlehem because way back in history this woman chose to leave Moab and cleave to Bethlehem and its people. I am reminded that her story is scribed into the Christmas story, a story of the ultimate leave and cleave covenant of grace…the story of Christ. Today I am grateful I have Ruth’s full story and the story of grace scribed over her life. As we once again, read the story Mary and Jospeh walking the dusty road to Bethlehem, I am reminded again that the ‘leave and cleave’ story is my story of grace.