I want to be the winner.
My son is 4, and that is something that has frequently come out of his mouth. He loves to win, he wants to be first. We have had to gently talk to him about what winning truly looks like.
Crossing the finish line first may mean that you were the winner of the race, but maybe sometimes being first isn’t truly winning. Sometimes there comes a time to forget running the race in order to endure with someone that is hurt, encourage someone, or persevere with someone you love.
I think I can be a lot like Charlie, I want to cross the finish line and I want to complete what I start, but over the past year, I have learned what it means to lay down your life for another. I have learned what it means to lay your own desires aside to walk along-side another through the ups and downs of life, in love, for the sake of Christ.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I have reflected a lot this year on the lives of Ruth and Naomi. Let me give you a short narrative of their story.
When the judges ruled, there was a great famine in the land. Because of this, many moved to other lands to provide for their families. One of the many was a man, from Bethlehem in Judah, named Elimelek. He took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Kilion to Moab and stayed there to live. Elimelek dies, leaving Naomi to live with her two sons who had married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After living in Moab for about 10 years, both of her sons also pass away, and this leaves Naomi to be with daughter in laws.
While still in Moab, Naomi hears that the Lord helped His people of Israel and food had been provided back home. Som her and her daughter in laws prepare to return to Bethlehem and then set out on the road that would them there.
However, at some point on this journey, Naomi instructs Ruth and Orpah to return to their mother’s home with a blessing that the Lord would return their kindness to her. After a tearful goodbye from Naomi, Orpah returns to her mother’s home. However, Ruth clung to Naomi and assures her that she will stay with her. Naomi’s God and people will be her God and people.
Related: Ruth: Loss, Legacy, Living
Where you go, I go.
Winning could have looked like Ruth returning home. She could have gone home, and Naomi urged her to do so. She would have been taken care of there. She would have been safe there, no question.
But she didn’t. She laid down what would have been acceptable to someone she deeply loved. Ruth stood by Naomi when the town stirred about her, and when Naomi told them to call her Mara (which means bitterness) instead of Naomi (meaning delightful renewal) because the Lord brought her misfortune.
Yet, God provided someone who wouldn’t leave her side. In turn, they both were blessed.
In life, we always want the best. Naomi had a family, she had a husband and sons. I bet when she married her husband she didn’t expect to have to relocate to a different land so they could survive. I bet that she didn’t expect that while they were there that her husband then sons would die. And I bet she didn’t expect that Ruth would stand by her side through it all.
Don’t urge me to leave you…
Now, I didn’t exactly leave my homeland like Ruth did. But when I told God I would risk anything to follow him, I didn’t expect that while following Him that there would be someone that I would tell Where you go, I go, and mean it as deeply as Ruth did. I didn’t realize that in doing so there would be times of trials and times of valleys.
I didn’t realize that those times would be the biggest blessing.
When dreaming of the future, usually you dream of the mountaintop experiences and joyful celebration. But sometimes running the race includes laying down your life to love those that God has placed in your life. Sometimes it is realizing that we were never meant to run alone. During the race, there may be times when you need to slow down to endure and persevere together. Times when you sit hand and hand and say I am not leaving your side.
There is always beauty beyond the cross, and it is blindingly beautiful.
But why lay down your life for your friends? Is it worth it to endure and persevere when there is a finish line to cross?
Because Jesus did. He could have been who so many expected him to be. But He wasn’t, and He laid down His life in the ultimate act of sacrifice. He did it because God’s chosen and loved ones were worth it. And those that we love are worth it.
Jesus’ example shows that there is always beauty beyond the cross, and it is blindingly beautiful.
Has there been a person in your life that has been a Ruth in your life? We would love to hear from you about how this kind of love has encouraged you!
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