Thoughts on the book of Ruth and womanhood, by Rachel McMillan.
Me + The Book of Ruth= Life Long Love.
It’s a love story between God and us, a man and a woman, a mother-in-law and her daughter. It’s a love story about forging families and community in unexpected places. It is God’s fairy-tale, the Bible’s Cinderella story and, ultimately, the most Romantic tale you’ll ever hear.
In Sunday School, as a little girl, I would hear the story of Ruth and dream about growing up to marry my Boaz. Boaz, in my mind, was the ultimate epitome of a gentleman: strong, kind, generally the Old Testament Mr. Darcy. My little heart would thud and I would think well, well into the future when I was older and finished university, when I had an apartment and a maybe a cat and Boaz would ride up on his white steed. (or, at the very least, take the empty seat adjacent mine on the subway. Most likely reading his Bible so I would know he was a real winner). I don’t have a Boaz or a cat. The subway scenario has not come to pass; but the dream of Boaz sticks strong. More so, the goal of being a woman worthy of a Boaz sticks stronger.
I recently finished an excellent exploration of the Book of Ruth called The Girl’s Still Got It by renowned Christian writer Liz Curtis Higgs. The entire book challenged me. It also made me ridiculously giddy as Higgs delves deeply into a scripture-by-scripture study of my favourite Biblical Book. Higgs has drawn upon numerous translations, academic studies and a plenitude of historical data to sculpt a fresh revisit to the world of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Interspersed throughout her writing are italicized inclusions of women who were inspired by the story of Ruth in their real-life relationships with their mother-in-laws and their husbands. Truth be told, you don’t have to live in the time before Christ to find Ruth’s happy and peaceful ending. You do, however, according to Higgs, need to be worthy of a Boaz.
If Boaz is the consummate gentleman then Christian women need to be the consummate Christian ladies. In short, while we can never be worthy in the sense that we are perfect, but we can become women worth our weight as companions of our knights in Biblically “Shining Armour”. As Christ awaits His bridegroom and our ears and eyes are to be pealed and widened at the anticipation of his return; so we should be aware of the possibility of a Boaz coming into our life. For a Christian girl, I look to the inclusion of purity as one of the many ways in which we can prepare for his possible arrival.
Certainly Ruth is a woman of valour and virtue in many ways and there is plenty to inherently adapt from her example. Christian women currently live in a society where our traditional views on abstinence are becoming seemingly more lax and have allowed for lenience. Moreover, the definition of abstinence has stretched and conditions have seemingly changed. It is more difficult now than ever, I believe, to maintain purity before the altar: Christian or non. There are so many conditions, there is room for some to argue loopholes, and there is a constant social pressure to cave in– one way or another.
Ruth’s journey is indubitably different from most of ours. She is a Moabite widow who leaves her home, her nation, her religion and her community and family to follow her mother-in-law to a social atmosphere where she will certainly be seen as an outcast. Days of hunger and poverty as well as an arduous journey await her and yet she gives up the comfort of normalcy, she shirks the “easy way out” and acts in a magnanimous moment of grace and love. She gives up something she must desperately want—to return to her home, to maybe find another husband, to be near her kin.
Waiting for Boaz and maintaining tradition and virtue in a society wrought with pressure to do the opposite, is a slippery slope with numerous hills and yet, it is the sacrifice of certain passions and persuasions as well as the fortitude to indefatigably hold to one’s personal conviction that make the end worth the means. Many are familiar with the romantic plight of Jane Eyre from the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is a governess at gothic Thornfield Hall who develops a close relationship with the proprietor of the house, Mr. Rochester. Plain Jane: poor and orphaned, must think her ship has sailed into the sunset when Rochester unexpectedly proposes and her love life and future seem perfectly planned. When a tragic shock makes Jane realize that her marriage must never take place, Rochester offers that she remain his mistress at Thornfield. Jane refuses.
This part of the story rips out my heart. Jane knows deep within her core that to do so would be to turn her back on the very principles deeply embedded in her psyche. To stay would be to sin against herself and against God. She is resolute enough to be able to pull away, maintain her moral stance and set out into the unknown. When the tides change, yet again, and her stormy life finds ultimate peace, the reader breathes a sigh of relief. She has earned this happiness due to her resolute conviction. She is deserving of her Rochester and the happiness she finds.
According to Higgs, and according to me, a woman must prepare herself for when her Boaz does come. In order to gain the attention of a godly man who will respect your boundaries and seek to grow alongside you, you must first become a godly woman. Certainly not a perfect woman- but a woman who seeks after pleasing the God that is perfect. That means, dear ladies, you have to stick to your guns.
I challenge women to think hard about what this might mean to them. It might mean limiting their dating pool (however casual) to stay within the margin of Christ followers, it may mean re-thinking physical boundaries discussed with a boyfriend or fiancée. It may mean re-defining with prayer and the seeking of scripture what waiting until marriage really means. It might even mean re-thinking the cut of a hem or a top in order to promote modesty in a world obsessed with a physical upkeep which leaves little to the imagination. It might mean all of these things; but it certainly means including God in the conversation.
I talk to a lot of young women who still struggle with what purity and virtue means. How far is too far? Can a Christian woman find happiness outside of the fold? It’s a question I often ponder myself. Can God— a loving God who truly believes in love and human union deprive of us of something so wonderful and glorious. What harm can it do if we mean to marry eventually? These are all well-posed and thoughtful questions specific to circumstance and beyond the realm of my human judgment. However, I feel strongly certain that being worthy of a Boaz means waiting for marriage. I have a feeling that most young women who seek the heart of God and asked straight out for guidance on the subject of purity and abstinence will get a clear-set heavenly answer. There is little room for leeway in God’s master plan. He wants the best for you and for me — and for our possible future partners. How, then, can he mean for anything to happen outside of the most romantic construction imaginable: the confines of marriage?
Being worthy of a Boaz is less about fitting a standard of perfection as it is about accepting Christ’s perfection on your behalf, and reflecting Him in your life – and, in turn, becoming the kind of woman who would complement a Christ-seeking gentleman. This is what Ruth taught me about womanhood..
To find out more about Rachel, visit our writer’s page.
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