After the Gleaning: What are You Carrying?
I love the book of Ruth, it was one of the books in the Bible that I read in its entirety when I accepted Christ as a young adult. I love the story of love, devotion, covenant, and restoration that the book of Ruth delivers. This story inspires hope of reclaiming joy, happiness, peace, and total life prosperity after enduring loss, hardship, and uncertainty of the future. As I have studied this book over the years I have seen myself through the perspective of both Ruth and Naomi – being devoted to serve and accompany people in my life on a journey to recover all, and as a woman who has lost much and became bitter from the unfulfilled promises in life. I don’t want to paint this story in the book of Ruth as a “happy go lucky” “happily ever after” type of fairy tale, and yet I also do not want to focus on all of the pain and hardship that they endured before the breakthrough and blessing came, as if that is a qualifier to receive from God. The truth of the matter is that rain falls on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45) and grace from God is a gift that we could never earn. What we do get from the tests and trials of life are experiences, skills, gifts being activated, and talents being honed.
One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”
Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters… –Ruth 2:2-3 (NLT)
In the second chapter of Ruth, Ruth decides to go to work to help provide for Naomi and herself. She may have been in a position to receive charity because she was a widow also, but she decided to work to support their household. In this work she picking up left over grains of wheat and barley that he harvesters missed. This was the custom of Israel to leave edges of the fields unharvested so that the poor and needy in the community could come and take what they needed for their households. Each time Ruth went to work she was learning more about the culture of her mother-in-law and about God. She was learning about who she was, and who she could be. Her faithfulness to Naomi and to her work placed her in favorable terms with the owner of the field, which resulted in many blessings for her and Naomi, even through the bloodline that Christ was born into.
When I look over my life and experiences of participating in various activities, ministries, and missions, I can see how each experience shaped or enriched me in some way. I started out like Ruth wanting to contribute to the ministry or group that I was a part of and offered my time, energy, ability ,and skills to serve towards that purpose. Some of my experiences were not pleasant and for a season the pain of those experiences cultivated bitterness that I did not know how to deal with. I forgave, I kept working or participating, I tried to put it out of my mind and started new things, but it was still there. The one thing that I had failed to do was confront it. It was like if I ignored it maybe it would go away, unfortunately it didn’t and it started spilling over into other parts of my life. A lot of times people who struggle with bitterness get portrayed as miserable, spiteful, and unpleasant people. Because the pain that person has endured has made their perspective slanted negatively they seem to get treated negatively, which in a lot of cases produces more bitterness. Until bitterness is confronted, acknowledged, and submitted to God that cycle continues. I know this first hand, the poor treatment from people who view you negatively doesn’t always stop right away, but your ability to stay focused on what is important increases and it does not stir up bitterness in you. In fact it stirs up compassion for other people being mistreated and steadfastness in the truth that God loves you and is for you regardless of what is done against you.
Now I am grateful for the times of gleaning, devotion, and journeying through places I had never been before. I don’t look back at it like I was shortchange or robbed of anything, instead I see all that I have gained- every skill, experience, talent, and gift that I might not have learned or would remain dormant in me if I had not offered to serve in the capacity that I did. What an amazing life it is to realize that most of what you need to accomplish your goals or realize your dreams is already in you! It didn’t happen by accident, it happened because every time you stepped out and offered what you had in time, ability, and willingness to learn, you walked away with wisdom, insight, skill, talent, gifting, and confidence that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! (Philippians 4:13)
Now Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and diligence to her work positioned her to have favor with Boaz. Be encouraged if what you need is beyond provision and needs met. God thinks thoughts of peace towards us and has given us a hope and a future that will bring us to an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). Get rid of bitterness and start looking at what you have gleaned from the past experiences that brought you to where you are right now. So a great question to ponder over this week is “What are you carrying?” What have you gleaned from past situations that may have been painful to endure? What wisdom and insights have you gained that has helped shape your life beyond what you could have estimated in the past? What are you carrying?
Let Us Pray: Father God thank You for keeping us through tests and trials, for adding to us when we offer what we have to serve You. Lord we thank You for being a Promise Keeper and a Waymaker, Your love never fails. Lord right now we place before you all the hurts, pains, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams that allowed bitterness to enter our lives. Lord we confront it now and acknowledge it before you asking for forgiveness and for thorough cleansing of any place that bitterness has affected our lives. Lord we don’t disguise it or call it another name, we expose it before You because only You are qualified to handle it. Lord we ask that You heal each place in us and help us to see what we gleaned from each situation and how to use it for Your Kingdom and for Your Glory. Lord we desire to use every skill, gift, talent, and experience to honor You, please show us the way. Lord any fear of serving, offering what we have, or of being used/exploited we turn over to You and ask You to give us discernment, wisdom, and divine timing on when, where, and with whom to use all of the gifts and skills that You have blessed us with. Lord let us not hold back or become timid, let us boldly proclaim Your goodness and walk in the liberty that You sent Jesus to die for us to have. In Jesus name AMEN!