There is a beautiful quote from the creator of a rather famous cat that goes like this, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Perhaps Dr. Seuss was trying to draw our attention to a deep truth – we never know what moments will change our lives.
Like so many of you, I have had these kinds of moments. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time but turned out to be pivotal events that shaped my journey. One of these moments happened on a playground in third grade. You see, I have always been an enthusiastic extravert, which also means that naturally, as a child, I was the ring leader amongst my peers when recess time came. However, one particular day I noticed that a beautiful, shy girl was sitting all by herself. I went over to her and immediately felt that we could become best friends. However, the others kids didn’t like this idea so much and basically threatened me, “it’s her or us, pick one.” I decided it would be her. This “her” has become a lifetime friend. While I have moved many times since those childhood days, we have always managed to keep in touch. On top of that, she is truly the first person that taught me that miracles are indeed real. You see, after several life threatening open-heart surgeries (none of which she was supposed to live through according to the doctors) I have had the great privileged of seeing God move mountains in her life…time and time again. This brings me to the lovely Dr. Seuss statement, in which I echo –moments really can change everything – turning our memories into something wonderful.
There is a story in the Bible that speaks about the beauty of friendship and rather significant moments. In fact, this friendship mattered so much that it literally changed a royal lineage. I am referring to the remarkable story found in the book of Ruth which takes place between two friends: Ruth and Naomi. Before we can truly meet what some would argue to be the main character, Ruth, we must first to get to know Naomi. Naomi, whose name meant “delight,” had a very hard path to walk down, which all started with a famine. Early in the story we learn that this famine had struck Judah, requiring that her and her family move to Moab. Scriptures tell us at the outset of the chapter that if this change wasn’t enough of a transition, the next one would be even harder. You see, we discover in verse 3 that her beloved husband dies. Imagine a day in Naomi’s life. She is dealt with two hardships to endure: living in an unfamiliar land, and living as a widow. Yet, God blessed her with two sons and this meant that she had the promise of a better tomorrow. In these days a widow was an especially terrible title and she would have to rely solely on her sons for her livelihood. In time, those two sons got married to two women whose names are Orpah and Ruth. However, once again, tragedy strikes Naomi as the unthinkable happens….both of her sons die. Now, I can’t even begin to put into words the emotions Naomi must have been feeling as her whole world was ripped from her. Life as she knew it was over. Her ‘every moment’ was becoming a painful memory. Naomi must have been beyond words as her identity was shattered. In fact, it was so bad she decided to change her name to Mara, which meant “bitterness.” As the famine ended and Naomi made her way back to her homeland (Judah), she herself became like a famine….completely empty with nothing left to give. Selflessly, she realized that her two widowed daughter-in-laws had no reason to follow her back. Somewhat sarcastically she begins a dialogue with them,
“But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” (Ruth 1:11-15)
Naomi knew that there was no hope for her or for these two women if they stayed with her. Therefore, in that moment, on a road somewhere between two dusty paths, she decides to paint a picture. She realizes that she has nothing to offer and she wants them to be aware that following her would mean more devastation than they could even imagine. Orpah, perhaps on paper, seemed to be the smarter of the two as she wipes her tears and goes back to where she came from. The reality is that this would have been the expected thing to do during those times. And, let us not also forget that she would have still been mourning the loss of her spouse as she made this decision. But, the same wasn’t true of Ruth, she simply could not let go. I would like to believe that Ruth saw something in Naomi through many years of loyalty, dedication, and love – something that made it impossible to walk away. It was a moment that all history would remember as we read on in this story. Next comes perhaps the most famous part, the line that set into motion a forever change,
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.” (Ruth 1:16-18)
It was a statement of friendship. It was a commitment to not only be Naomi’s companion, but the God of the Universe’s servant. For in that moment, Ruth (who was not Jewish like Naomi) decided to follow the one true God. Thus, I believe that not only did Ruth gain a forever family in Naomi, she also gained a forever place in God’s home.
It’s a beautiful story and had it ended there, we could conclude many lessons from it. However, it doesn’t end there. Through many series of events, Ruth eventually marries Boaz and they conceive a child named Obed, who grows up to be the grandfather of King David. Astoundingly, Jesus would be born into this lineage. Therefore, one could argue that Ruth’s faithfulness was in the center of it all. You see, had Ruth not been led to stay with Naomi despite her brokenness, Ruth would have never walked down the path which would lead to a forever God-ordained moment that we all get to reflect on. It was a simple moment on a dusty insignificant path headed to what may have seemed like nowhere, especially when it came to her future. But, the future is a story that only God can be the Author of. And, in this case, the future included a royal line that would birth our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.
You may be wondering – what does this beautiful story have to do with you and me? We have all been given many, many moments over a lifetime. Some of these moments are forgotten and yet, other moments become memories that change our lives forever. For me, a significant moment in my life took place on an ordinary day on a playground during recess time. Likewise, I am sure you can think of reflective moments that have changed who you are today. I leave you with this, what if God reserved moments in your life to impact your tomorrows? What if we were called to be the kind of friend that puts other’s needs before our own? What if one decision we made effected future generations? What if God was writing your story today – in this very moment? I pray that as we all reflect on this incredible story, we might recognize that in our brokenness, God is creating a beautiful story that can change not only our lives, but others… forever.