Are You Weary? Consider Naomi

Are you weary?

There are so many avenues to becoming weary.   But I find that the starting point for many of these avenues is self sacrifice.  Sometimes it’s the day to day routine of self sacrifice that comes from motherhood and homeschooling, and the work it takes to keep up your home, all while balancing the busyness of ministry, and possibly a job.

Sometimes it’s a radical change in our lives that brings personal adjustments that we didn’t know were coming, and a sacrifice of our freedoms during that season for the sake of the betterment of others, including parents and dear friends.  Or it could be as simple as the loss of personal freedom to take a shower or use the bathroom without loud knocks on the door, or tiny fingers under the door!

Sometimes it’s physical exhaustion that comes from battling an illness, or dealing with chronic pain.  Really, though… each of these deal with loss.  Loss of freedom, loss of comfort, loss of self sufficiency, maybe loss of a loved one, and certainly, loss of self. It is exhausting giving up ourselves!

As Jesus was drawing near to the day of his death, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  As we know, if a seed is placed on a table and dies, it eventually turns to dust and blows away. But when a seed falls into the ground and dies, and is surrounded by the elements, the nutrients of the earth, it grows, producing fruit and life.

My name is Naomi, and I have come to give you my story of how, by Gods grace, I was consumed by the earth, the dirt and environment, and I died to self to bear great fruit.  I hope, for any of you who are experiencing weariness and exhaustion, that this story may encourage you.

The meaning of my name, Naomi, is pleasant.  I hope my life has been a reflection of that name, but let me tell you… there was a time when I asked all my friends to call me Mara.  Mara means bitter, and at the time, I was so destitute, so discouraged, and so exhausted from what life had brought my way, that going by Naomi/Pleasant caused me to feel almost embarrassed, humiliated.  So Mara seemed to be the most appropriate name for a woman in my circumstances.  You see, back in the days when the judges ruled in Israel, The Lord allowed a famine in our land.  Many believed the famine was the consequence for Yahweh’s chosen people, my people, falling so far away from obedience to His laws.  I suppose there was logic to that, as Yahweh promised protection as long as we loved Him with our whole heart.  Our people were clearly not loving Him with their whole heart!  At that time, many were critical of my husband, Elimelech, because when the famine was so bad that he could no longer feed our family, he packed up a few of our belongings, and leaving our God-given land and home, family, friends and our religious culture behind, we headed for the land of Moab.  Moab, was much like your Orange County, with so much wealth and prosperity, Elimelech knew we would find food and shelter.  But our family members believed we should stay and trust God, even in the hard times, and resist leaving behind our community that understood Yahweh and His laws, rather than submitting to a culture that had many gods, the greatest god being self.  My position was not to judge or to question my husband, but to respond in obedience to his direction.  As an Israelite woman, my job to submit was my act of obedience to God, leaving me to trust Him with the outcome.  So, off we went, on our journey to Moab, with my two young boys, Mahlon and Kilion in tow.

I would like to tell you that we lived happily ever after, but this is far from the truth.  As we carved out a life in Moab, and the boys began to grow into men, I continued to love, and trust Yahweh.  Without the Israelite community, and my husband working almost every sunlit hour, I made a commitment to be the reflection of God’s Word, realizing my life may be the only witness to God that my boys would ever see.  I schooled them at home, and tried my best to grow them up in the admonition of The Lord.  Then, one day, my Elimelech died!  How could this be?  The loss of the man I loved was too much to bear!!  And, this was not my home!  I had no one really close to me to help me bear my intense loss, my burden, both of a broken heart, and also for the simple provisions necessary for life. I was devastated!!  My boys quickly became the men of the home at a very young age.  Their training ended, and their manhood began.  Eventually, they each found a Moabite woman, one named Orpah and the other named Ruth, and as sweet as they were, to my dismay, my boys married into this culture that we were now trapped in.  I was feeling more and more hopeless, afraid that the influence of the culture would far outweigh any testimony I could share about the perfect, holy and loving God of their forefathers.  These Moabite women came into my home, so I made every effort to love them as my own daughters, but I felt so empty! I was just an odd foreigner with a strange God, even after 10 years in Moab.  How I missed the sweet fellowship of daughters-in-law who would have shared my faith, if only I was still in Bethlehem.

And, then the days arrived, and I was no longer the only grieving woman.  My boys each died!  How could this be? The pain was unbearable and we now had three widows living under one roof.  We were drowning in the loss and the grief and the fear of our future with no provider, and I was feeling so overwhelmed that I found it impossible to push myself through my day.  The waves of grief came crashing down on me so hard, even the smallest tasks had to be abandoned.  Lord, I prayed, I can’t go on.  Just let me die!  Please, just bring me home!

And it hit me…Yes, Lord… just bring me home.  Home.  Didn’t I just hear in the fields of Moab, that the Lord had visited my people and given them food?  Here I was in a land that was not home!  With women, who were really strangers to me.  I prayed, Yahweh!  I am going home!  Please Lord, give me the strength to place one foot in front of the other, and get me home to my people!  As I rose to prepare for my journey, my daughters-in-law both dutifully rose with me.  But I stopped them, and cried, “Go, return, each of you to your mother’s house!  May The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and me.  The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!”  And then I kissed them and they lifted up their voices and wept.  “No mother!  We will return with you to your people!”  But I insisted, “Turn back my daughters; why will you go with me?  I cannot give you a husband or children.  There is still hope for you, but if you come with me, there is no hope.”

As I look back on that, I think it was significant that my blessing over them was not necessarily for husbands, or provisions, but for rest.  This is a kind of landmark for me to always remember the extreme weariness that we were all experiencing, that my prayer for them was for rest.  I believe we are paralyzed by exhaustion, and in my mind, rest was the cure.  Well, at any rate, Orpah kissed me, and turned toward her childhood home and her family gods.  But Ruth,  Oh Ruth…. I will never fully understand, but sweet Ruth clung to me.  “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you! For where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die and there will I be buried.  May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

When I saw that she was determined to go with me, I said no more.  But I thought… I marveled… How could I have considered this girl a stranger!  How did I not see that the witness I was determined to shine for my boys, spilled over onto this young girl, and Yahweh gave her the gift of faith!  Even through the torrential pain and grief and exhaustion, could it be that Ruth saw my faith?  Maybe displayed as a peace that passes all understanding?  I couldn’t imagine!

The journey began, and I had the sweetest companion I could ever have asked for.  This journey would be one of discovery and growing faith for Ruth as she began to learn the wisdom of the Lord from me, her mom…, and for me as I began to learn how a truly committed, unconditionally loving sister and friend could impact the circumstances of my life.  God knew! and He is so good!

Do you know that the Bible states,

“So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem” (Ruth 1:19).

Wow! With all due respect, that is an understatement!!  Here we were, still in the midst of emotional pain and suffering, and still wondering how we would actually place one foot in front of the other.  Do you know that our trip from Moab to Bethlehem was approximately 45 miles on foot!  Why didn’t I stop and think about how many times I would have to put one foot in front of the other to cover 45 miles?!?  And these were not flat land miles!  No! the terrain was rugged, rocky, dusty and steep!!  We didn’t have comfy shoes to walk in back in those days!  We wore very rough leather sandals, strapped on with cords.  We had to look for groups to travel with because 18 miles of this journey took us through the infamous Jericho Road.  We had to ascend from Jericho’s depth, some eight hundred twenty-five feet below sea level, to Jerusalem’s height, approximately twenty-five hundred feet above sea level.  In that short geographical space, the ascent was approximately six-tenths of a mile. Almost straight up!  Such a dramatic change in height brought with it a startlingly rapid shift in the environmental conditions that proved exhausting for anyone making the journey, but certainly for an older woman like me, and even for young Ruth!  At a point approximately five miles out of Jericho and thirteen miles from Jerusalem, we arrived at a pass that has been dubbed, the Ascent of Blood.  Rumor was, the reason for that name was because of the blood that bandits repeatedly shed at this place.  We were terrified!!  Suddenly, as we stumbled along, praying the Lord would give us the strength to take the next step and keep us from the hands of bandits, I was overcome with regret for putting sweet Ruth in this position!  What was I thinking!  How could we ever get to the end of this journey?  And when we get there, then what???  I have no land, no money, no husband, and… no hope.  But, as these thoughts shot through my head, I heard a whisper of a voice say to me, “Naomi, you have a redeemer!  I grasped that truth, not fully understanding, changed my countenance, and began to speak words of life to Ruth, encouraging her in the truths of God’s Word, and singing the songs of praise to help keep hearts upbeat, along with our pace.  Our trip took us 10 long, dangerous and physically challenging days, but we pressed on until the road began to level out, and the sites and smells of Jerusalem began to draw me onward.  There were steps I took with my eyes closed.  I didn’t know it was possible to walk and sleep at the same time!  I was tired.  I was so tired!

The landmarks became so familiar, I found myself suddenly overtaken by the butterflies in my stomach.  These were not butterflies of excitement, but anxiety.  I realized these were feelings of doom and humiliation.  How can I face my people?  I went away full, but now… there is nothing for me but pity.  Everything that matters is lost, my husband, my boys, my inheritance, and the only thing I brought back is a foreigner, an outcast, an unclean Moabite woman.  Panic and a strong desire to run swept over me.  But where would I run?  And how? My legs were done.  My muscles were cramping, and the wounds on my feet left drops of blood on my path.  “No!” I declared out loud, I could not physically run, nor would I spiritually run!  I now had a sweet disciple beside me, a woman who was not an outcast, but my soulmate, and often through the ten days, Ruth kept me alive.  She needed to see that my God delivers us through every trial, including now, humiliation.

And when we finally came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of us.  And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  Can you see why I adopted a new name?  Can you feel my shame as the women called me Pleasant?  And so as an act of acknowledgement for my humiliating condition and position, I asked them to call me Mara/Bitter.  Bitter… I regret that because nothing could be further from the truth.  God was not finished.  I am His, and He is mine.  He would not allow me to be the reflection of bitterness, but of Pleasantness.  Naomi is my name.  I lived to see God’s plan for mine and Ruth’s lives fulfilled.  In His perfect omniscience and mercy, and by God’s predestined provision through His law, Boaz, my amazing relative, redeemed and married Ruth, rescuing us and giving us a life of family, friends, and worship with our community.  And best of all, I eventually held a grandson in my arms!  In fact, we became links in the chain of lineage to the Messiah, the ultimate Redeemer to come, Jesus Christ our Lord and God.  And may I tell you, there are three things I learned through the death of self, and on my journey to Moab and back to Jerusalem.  Three things that are God’s gift to me and to you.  Three things I want to leave with you, and that is:

1.)  God’s Gift of Faith:

When I died to my own plans and hopes and submitted to my husband so many years earlier, and allowed him to plant me in the soil of Moab, taking my family away from our home to a foreign city without argument and grumbling, that was faith.  Not a faith that I could drum up and produce, but a faith that was a gift from God.  A faith that carried me through ten hard years in Moab, allowing me to remember that no matter what my circumstances were, my job for the Lord didn’t change.  By that death of self and gift of faith, I bore fruit…I was God’s ambassador, His vessel of honor, used in my everyday, mundane duties of life, practiced and refined as I trained and schooled my boys.  A faith which allowed me to represent God to my family, and unbeknownst to me, to others around me.  That faith became its own seed dropped in the earth (consumed by it’s surrounding) to die and produce faith in the heart of Ruth, who was unbeknownst to me, my purpose in going to Moab.  She was predestined to be in the line of the Redeemer, and God used me and my family to bring her to Bethlehem.  My gift of faith caused Ruth to hunger for her own faith, and God in His love and mercy, gave her her own gift of faith.  Ruth became a new vessel of honor for God, and by faith raised her son (my grandson) in The Lord. Ruth and I became the Great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother of King David. What an honor!  And with that gift of faith, YOU will all experience honor when you enter heaven and see your lineage and the lives you purposed to influence, and even some you unexpectedly influenced for the Kingdom. You will be greatly rewarded for your faithful influence!!  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).  Don’t give in to the temptation to think that your day to day efforts with your children at home will come to nothing.  Keep focused on the goal of your work.  And pray that God will give your children the gift of faith at the earliest possible age.  Our work is the tilling of the soil, which is the environment and spiritually strong shaping influences of your child’s life, so that when the Holy Spirit drops the seeds of faith in that rich soil, it will take root, and feed and grow the seed of salvation.  Don’t think that others aren’t watching you.  They are!  And they may be hungering for a faith like yours.

Next truth I want to leave with you…

2.)  God Gives Us the Gift of Like-minded Sisters. 

It took me too long to truly understand what God had given me in Ruth!  I look back and wonder, what would I have done without her?  She was like Jesus with skin.  Don’t be like me and underestimate the value of your sisters in the Lord.  God has given you an entire community that is like minded, aiming for the same goals and able to be Jesus for you.  Women who love the Lord as you do, and have a strong desire to want to help in every way they can, just like you.  What I would have given to have had that in Moab!!  But too often, we women try to do life on our own, as an island, as if we have no need for our sisters.  In this contemporary Moab that you live in, you can be overcome with cultural pride, maybe even keeping you from opening what you think is a less then perfect home to one another.  We worry that there will be judgement.  I say, for the sake of longevity and the opportunity to glorify God, don’t be the one who judges, and who cares if others are judging you!  Show them what it is to put the spiritual first and leave no room for earthly pride.  Open your homes, share your children with each other, break bread together, and begin to participate in one another’s lives!  Don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen each other, to do your work through friendship and co-opping.  You even have the ability to give rest to one another, as you take turns in homeschooling each others children.  This is so much more fun than homeschooling only your children every week!  I know you all think about doing this, but the days and even the years are flying by, you are growing more and more weary, and maybe the support and the help is buried in that fear of being judged.  Jump in! take the risk!  None of us are doing things perfectly!! Don’t wait hoping for the perfect friend for your child!  Instead become the influence and ambassador to someone else’s child! Don’t pull away from others… Instead, die to self, engage, and you will produce the fruit of righteousness!!  Engaging may get messy sometimes, but that’s where friends truly become family.  Appreciate and participate in the gift God has given you through all your Christian sisters!

And, my third lesson:

3.)  God’s Gift of a Redeemer. 

In the Israelite law, God established protection through family redeemers.  But as you know, that was just a foreshadow of what He was bringing in the future.  I could not express fully to you, how important Boaz, our redeemer was to us.  But to have Jesus as your Redeemer?  What a peace!  What a comfort!  When life gets hard, and circumstances become overwhelming, when loved ones die and grief sucks every ounce of energy from your bodies, you will never be without the knowledge and sure hope of your Redeemer.  As you wake in the middle of the night, Oh, the joy to trust in Jesus!!   As the Apostle Paul said, “as for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21)”.  We have nothing to lose!  We have one life to live for Christ, to serve Him, and to glorify Him.  When that’s done, we go to be with Him!  No circumstance can ever be so large that we can’t have peace and hope in the middle of it, knowing that our God is there to protect us, to love us and to get us through each trying moment!  Stay focused on your Redeemer.  Never lose sight of Him.  He will be your inspiration, your motivation, your strength and courage to put one foot in front of the other on your journey.  So, do press on, and take hold of the prize.  And trust me! There is a prize worth taking hold of!!!  Spend time every day with your Redeemer, and let Him fill you with the power of His Spirit so that your work may not be a burden.

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).

AMY CARMICHAEL wrote of the importance of having a consistent and loving relationship with

Christ, and of allowing nothing to mar that bond. She wrote:

“O, let us more and more deeply love the Forgiving Saviour and more and more walk softly with Him lest we grieve Him in any tiny thing.”

“We are not called to be weaklings but warriors… It is all or nothing,”

The all is the idea of the seed that falls into the soil. Consumed by the lives around us, saturated by the circumstances that life brings.

As we die each day, embraced in the soil, remember the three truths:

solid faith, sweet sisterhood and our precious redeemer!  God’s gifts for a life of power, strength, courage, abundant fruit and rest.

Short Story by Sharon Cannavo

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