But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ Ruth 1.16-17
The beautiful poetry we hear tonight conveys Ruth’s resolution, her steadfast devotion, to Naomi. “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
As the story goes, this woman named Ruth had left her family of origin, her home country, the religious tradition of her childhood, to marry one of Naomi’s children. But that son, Ruth’s husband, has now died. And, so Naomi tries to get Ruth to go home. The old woman has nothing of value, nothing of a future, to offer her daughter-in-law now.
But for some reason, Ruth won’t go away; she won’t leave Naomi. For anything in the past.
We could wonder why…
That oft-told interpretation says that Ruth’s staunch resolve is all about her true and fervent commitment to Naomi’s God. She’s had a religious conversion and will not return to the gods of her homeland. “No turning back, no turning back…”
But there could be other explanations…
Perhaps, Ruth knows that there is nothing waiting for her back there. We don’t know her experiences in that home country, what freedoms she gained in moving away from home; we do not know the expectations of her family and the demands that may await should she choose to return.
It is also possible that Ruth has just found her own freedom and power in this moment, where the patriarchy literally has died off. No dudes around. (Not entirely relevant to our gathering here tonight, but I’m pretty sure many of us are ok with a bit less patriarchy in general!)
And of course Ruth could also be staying for love: in this case, for love of Naomi. Maybe Ruth’s heart has been actually turned toward the old woman, turned into the sort of selfless, sacrificial, self-giving affection for another that brings a flood of meaning, connection and hope that we all long for in some way….
My preferred interpretation is an all-of-the above approach.
Yes, to love of the God of Naomi, something compellingly meaning-making in Ruth’s conversion to a new way of knowing the Divine presence in her life...
Yes, to not turning back. We grow, we move forward, and we break free of the constraints that try to keep us in the same places we were stuck for too long. (Why would we return to less than the life and light we’ve found along our life’s journey up to now?)
YES, to the power to be one’s truest self, coming into new relationships as a whole person, bringing the completely-enough-you and the completely-enough-me into new relationships…
And, YES for love. Yes, for finding it in giving of self and not just seeking out someone to make up for all the things I think I lack, all my perceived defiencies.
You are good enough for this. And it can be as good as you dream it might.
Brady and Colin: what you are doing here tonight, in the midst of friends and all kinds of family, is a bold and beautiful act of faith.
This isn’t all new:
What you are today as you make these sacred promises to one another is not what you’ll be in a week or a month or in ten years.
And so to make your vows here, now, is to grasp hands and to boldly forge ahead into a shared future, come what may.
You have your person, and together the two of you will have a life, a home, an “us”.
"Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.”