Lily seethed as the rest of the Sunday school class placed Beth’s ceramic dishes onto trays against the back wall of the room, their outsides clean of crumbs.
“Thank you again, Beth, for feeding the class this morning.”
“You guys are so welcome, Tim. I wanted to do it,” Beth said, smiling.
Lily had neither eaten nor drunk anything since the day before. She sat with her right leg over her left in the folding metal chair, waiting.
“This morning I would like to turn our attention to the story of Ruth in the Old Testament,” Tim said. “As you turn there in your Bibles, would anyone like to share any insights into the history of Ruth or things you would like us to discuss?”
Suddenly the sound of bracelets slipping down forearms onto Beth’s masculine hands preceded the voice Lily dreaded.
“Oh Tim, I just love the story of Ruth. It is about a powerful woman God used to accomplish mighty things,” Beth said. “It has always held a special place for me in my walk with the Lord.”
For a moment, Lily contemplated swallowing her own tongue.
“That’s interesting, Beth,” Tim responded. “Can you elaborate on what you mean?”
“Of course,” Beth said. “I just think that Ruth was so important to God because she didn’t leave when others left. She remained with her family. She did not go off. She stayed and God used her to become an even greater woman.” Beth scoped the classroom as she spoke, in case her sisters were present.
Lily felt perspiration begin to form on her forehead but she did not speak.
“That is an interesting take on Ruth as part of the storyline of Scripture, Beth,” Tim said. “Does anyone else have some things you might share about Ruth—either as a woman, per se, or perhaps as part of what God was doing?”
Suddenly four people appeared at the door.
“I’m sorry we are late, Tim.” It was Aaron and Sarah. Ruth walked in beside her sister, and Nathanael entered last.
“No problem, guys. Welcome. Please grab some goodies your sister-in-law brought, and join us. We’re discussing the baker’s namesake,” Tim said.
Lily straightened up in her chair, and patted her forehead to check for perspiration. Nathanael sat next to her. Aaron, Sarah, and Ruth sat adjacent to Nathanael.
“Well, I don’t think Beth is a book of the Bible,” Aaron said, “so I guess that means you’re in Ruth today?”
“All that law school paid off, Aaron,” Tim said, smiling. “I was asking the class what insights about Ruth as a person, or as a woman, per se, or as a character in Scripture, they might have.”
No one spoke for a moment, until finally Tim continued.
“Well, Beth mentioned that Ruth was a powerful woman used mightily by God.”
Nathanael turned his eyes towards Lily without turning his head. Lily cleared her throat and adjusted into a more comfortable position in her chair.
“What actually was the setting of Ruth?” Tim asked.
“Wasn’t it during the time of the judges?” Nathanael asked.
“It was, Nathan. Exactly. So that was the 900s B.C.,” Tim said. “And what was the time period like for the people in the story? Was the nation experiencing a time of blessing by the Lord? Was the nation politically and nationally stable?”
Nathanael and Lily both smiled sadly, and shook their heads, as did several others in class.
“It was not,” Tim said. “As Nathan said, this was the time of the judges. When the story of Ruth opens, we are told right away that there was a famine in the land. And so a man, Elimelech, and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons go in search of better fortune in Moab. Once in Moab, however, Elimelech died. And Naomi is now widowed, with two sons, in a land not her own.
“And then more bad news strikes. Naomi’s sons married Moabite women, but after a while, her two sons die, too. Now Naomi has two daughters-in-law, and she’s still away from her home back in Bethlehem.”
Beth made some motions in her chair when Tim said ‘away from her home’, and adjusted some rings on her hands.
Lily could hear the metallic clink of Beth’s bracelets carried on the air. No one else in the room seemed to stir.
“Tim, this is the part I just love,” Beth interjected. “You see a woman who does not leave her family when times are tough.”
“Ah, you mean Ruth, of course, Beth,” Tim said. “Yes of course, but we are not there yet in the story. At this point, we are still reading of Naomi, of how she felt God was against her, how she felt bitter, et cetera. Is everyone with me?”
Except for Beth, the class nodded in agreement. “At issue here, it seems to me,” Tim said, “is this woman, Naomi, who had gone with her husband and sons to a territory not their own. And yet tragedy had set in—in several ways. For her, she lost her husband, her sons, there’s famine still back in Bethlehem, and now she has a complicated life as a woman in the ancient Near East with two daughters-in-law, and she questions God. Does anyone else in here think that we might do the same thing if God allowed those circumstances in our lives?”
Lily was unaware that she had begun leaning forward in her seat. Gently, Nathanael leaned into Lily’s left shoulder. “You okay?” he whispered.
(To be continued)