Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.
For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.
In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.
I hope not.
What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.
Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.
But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.
He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.
But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.
To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.
I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.
The only thing left was operating without emotions.
Which only compounded matters.
I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)
Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.
And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.
He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.
And when it was over I was free.
Free from guilt.
My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.
I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.
Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.
I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.
But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.
If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.
I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.
Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.
Praise Your Holy Name.
Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz did not live during an ideal time of history. But they were part of God’s master plan to change history. God used them to establish the beginnings of something new in Israel.
And although the trio did not understand their unique position at the time, each responded to God in faith, doing the best they could to live their lives according to God’s Will for them. Their faith to respond to God when they lived a hidden life in the hills of Bethlehem of Judah offers us hope. Life is full of periods, but God is at work. He always has a plan, even when the world does not understand or recognize Him.
After the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, all the characters in this story find fulfillment. However, Scripture emphasizes the fulfillment that came to Naomi. She is emply and unfilfilled at the beginning of the book with no obvious source of support. At the close she receives provision and protection through the marriage of her daughter-in-law Ruth to Boaz, and she is blessed by the birth of the son named Obed who will continue the line of her husband Elimelech and herself.
Boaz determines everything will be in order before he takes Ruth as wife, so he arranges a meeting where he reminds the other kinsman-redeemer or obligations and rights.
It was enough. Boaz establishes his position and takes care of the competetion. Accomplishing his purpose requires moving carefully and wisely through the legal procedures of the time.
Boaz understands that if he marries Ruth, the inheritance of her dead husband’s land affects their relationship and any children they might have. This post looks at cultural practices, instituted by God, that affects their future together.
Did Boaz have an inkling ahead of time?
We don’t know, but we do know his response. Yes, he’s interested. However, he cannot ignore details, and he must attend to them.
So Ruth learns about another aspect of faith. Sometimes we step out, only to discover we must wait for God’s answer.
Ruth followed Naomi’s advice when she approached Boaz on the threshing floor. She let him know she was interested, and she reminded him of his position as kinsman-redeemer. A romantic incident couched in teh culture of the time.