I have always loved two of Jean-Francois Millet’s paintings: The Angelus (above) and The Gleaners (shared here). Perhaps my rural roots draw me to these portraits of people working the land. Also, I have always associated these paintings with the story of Ruth — she worked as a gleaner and later Boaz noticed her working in his field.
The Angelus depicts a couple pausing to pray during their potato harvest as the church bells ring from the steeple painted in the background.
This scene reminded me of author Lysa TerKeurst’s advice in chapter fifteen of Uninvited: When we pray “Thy will be done,” we trust God to redeem the pain and guide us to the help we need.
Both Ruth and Naomi had made commitments that shaped their lives, and they both experienced challenges to those commitments. Yet, their sorrow and hardships were used by God to strengthen them.
- Spouse and family — Naomi married Elimelech and gave birth to two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Her sons then married Orpah and Ruth. Over a ten year span, all the men in the family died, splintering the original family bonds. God restored their family through the kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, who married Ruth and carried on the family line with their son Obed. Their family became part of the genealogy of King David and Jesus, the Christ.
- Faith — Naomi and Elimelech were Jewish, yet they chose to move away from the promised land to Moab. Ruth was raised where many gods were worshiped; she met the true God when she joined Naomi’s family.
- Community — Naomi’s family left Bethlehem in Judah and suffered loss in Moab. Later, Naomi and Ruth returned to Judah where Naomi was restored to the community in Bethlehem, and Ruth was welcomed.
- Vocation — The women were dependent upon their husbands for provision of their daily needs. Without an heir to take on that responsibility, the widows were thrust into poverty. God provided for their needs through the generosity and love of their kinsman-redeemer Boaz.
Truly God gave Ruth the strength to keep her commitments. Once Ruth declared her loyalty, hope began to stir again within Naomi.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
In the words of Lysa TerKeurst, Ruth “lived loved.” She was invited to be part of Naomi’s family and invited to be part of God’s family. She trusted God to provide a new community and took on the responsibility of caring for Naomi.
As Sophie Hudson points out in Giddy Up, Eunice: Ruth let Naomi feel all her emotions when she could have easily rolled her eyes at her mother-in-law and told her to “take a chill-pill.” The women shared a great level of trust, especially after Ruth’s declaration of commitment. That gave Naomi the courage to move forward and later offer Ruth advice on how to approach Boaz. (Yes, that advice seems very peculiar to us; however, Boaz seemed to take it as wholly appropriate and understood his role.)
Ruth trusted her mother-in-law’s wisdom, she trusted her plan for redemption, and ultimately, she trusted her with her future. – Sophie Hudson, Giddy Up, Eunice, chapter 9
We are part of God’s plan to help protect people’s commitments to family, faith and community — and in some ways, vocation.
Sophie Hudson tells us that even though our own lives are busy and seemingly overwhelming at times, we can learn from the gleaners. Ruth and Naomi were provided for by picking up what was left over. In a similar way we can capture those little moments of “left over time” — even if it’s only 10 minutes while we’re waiting in line — to encourage one another and serve one another. When we each give a little, God blesses the gleaning and provides what we need.1
1 Hudson, Sophie. Giddy Up, Eunice: Because Women Need Each Other. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group.