I remember watching a documentary recently and in it a foreigner was visiting Africa and was attempting to carry something on her head without dropping it. The kids and young women were laughing at her pitiful attempt. She struggled to balance a plate on her head, let alone pales of water, firewood and crops from the gardens. Add to this a winding path up the hills and rocky terrain and you gain a whole lot of respect for the women who do this every day. My laborious efforts to carry my groceries the 20 steps from the car to the kitchen, pale into insignificance when you see the work ethic and the strength of some of these women.
I love this part in Ruth where you see her get up from the table to return to work and for the rest of the harvest, she is able to remain in this safe environment of grace and provision. This is where we find Ruth after her meal of roasted grain and wine…back in the field gleaning, then we find her alongside the other harvesters, in the threshing floors threshing out the grain….Then we glimpse her in the dusk walking along the path that leads ‘home’, carrying her massive weight of provisions with her and somehow I think she is smiling….weary? Yes, but also grateful and full of wonder. She now has a sense of provision, protection and purpose about the rest of humanity harvest.
As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers. ” Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’ ” Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:15-23 NIV)
Some stand out statements for me to mull over in this part of the story:
She carried IT back to town…what did she carry? An abundance of grain, leftovers from lunch and proof of he kindness and favour of God. That is what I want to carry home at the end of my day.No rebuke was found in this field towards her. There must have been rules that limited the foreigners and how much they could take, but Boaz ensured that Ruth is not subject to the rules but subject to his grace and kindness.
Ruth not only works a full day gathering and gleaning, she then threshes out the grain and carries it, maybe on her shoulders or back or even on her head. Who is this woman? I want some of her energy, her work ethic, or is it motivated by the fact that she has felt the kindness and grace of Boaz and in the light of what she has been given, it is easy to do and give much?
When I view grace, provision and kindness in the context of where I am working, serving and gleaning, it makes the load so much easier to bear. How do I help others sense abundance, provision and grace instead of rules? how do I cultivate a culture where generosity outweighs the weight of responsibility?
This was no little bag of grain. It was probably the weight of a large bag of dog food. What a great picture: dusk, a mourning widow, weary, and carrying her days worth of grace and kindness home. I want that to be that picture for my family, my Nurture group, my church community…. at the end of the day. Weary yes, but with my hands full not empty, and proving to my those I am responsible for, that God has poured out his abundance and provision for as long as we need it.
Naomi recognises the man’s name: Boaz a king and redeemer.
‘Blessed be the man who has noticed you’…
my redeemer has noticed me …and his response is grace.
When others see what I carry, I pray they don’t see that but recognise the one who has noticed me….