Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Decision is Life or Death

"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." Ruth 1:16

This verse hit me between the eyes last night. My friend and I are in week one of Kelly Minter's Ruth bible study. When we picked this particular study, I was cynically thinking that I knew the book inside out; therefore I probably wouldn't learn anything new. It's funny that I'm always wrong when I think I know everything.

Although Ruth is saying these words to Naomi (her bitter mother-in-law) about their journey back to Bethelem, I realized that I was in the same situation....though on a spiritual rather than physical journey.

Naomi and her husband, along with their two daughters-in-law left Bethelem for Moab. Naomi's husband and sons eventually died, and Naomi decided to return to her home. I have heard and read this story 203 times since I was in Sunday School as a child. Yet I never grasped that Naomi and her family initially left Bethelem (their God-given land) for Moab, which was enemy territory. Moab was a country without God's favor, without His blessing. Therefore they were essentially leaving the place God had given them, for a land they thought would be better. Because, naturally, the grass is always greener and the land is more desirable on the other side.

Aren't I often tempted to leave "my land" when I think something else is better? Hasn't that been my situation for the last six months? Doesn't this all go back to Eve believing what the stupid serpent said was better than what God had provided already?

Without going off on Eve's tangent, Ruth's words struck me to the core. She committed in her heart to do the right thing - the "thing" that required devotion and faith. She emphatically told Naomi that she would go wherever she went....and would worship whomever she worshiped. This commitment resounded within me like that big gong on Let's Make a Deal. I had drifted into an unknown land, a land that I convinced myself was just a mini-vacation spot. Even though I knew this trip was altogether wrong, I was stubborn-headed and foolish enough to convince myself that my choices are sometimes better than God's.
And now, God has lovingly interrupted that journey because He wants me home. He knows that His joy and peace are mine only within the borders of His planned "land" for me. The enemy can tempt and taunt and deceive and make valiant efforts to make a very wrong situation look beautiful and enticing and thrilling. Then when you arrive in that place, the walls crumble; it's not what you thought; it's ugly, sinful, and just plain devastating. This place makes you weary, and it's void of peace and full of deceit. Home, you realize, is ripe with abundance, joy, love and truth.

So you make the decision to return. You grasp the gracious hand of God and allow Him to lead you back to His arms. And you cry out with the determination of Ruth and say, "I will go where you go...and I will stay where you stay." And you pray that God would trade your heart of stone for a heart of flesh...because you know that it's not sheer willpower that will keep you home. It's only His perfect love that drew you back, and it's only by absolute surrender to His love that makes you stay.
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