Sunday the 2nd: The Greatest of These

Posted on August 17, 2014. Filed under: Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Third rock from the Sun and older than dirt — we know it as Earth.  Humans and trillions of trillions of other entities make up the living fabric that encompasses this Earth and moves in seasonal and epochal rhythm to the pulse of Time’s passage.  In great migratory flow, life moves from scarcity to abundance, pauses to renew itself, and then obediently continues its endless journey across the lands and oceans of island Earth.

Though today’s humans are insulated from the awareness of their bondage to this ancient ebb and flow, it continues to be their lot since from time beyond memory; we are just as subject to the toll that Time exacts as is the wildebeest in its eternal migration across its own successions of Jordans.

Humans learned to scratch records of their own journeys into the substance of the universal mother, Earth, and in those records, the past can speak to us today.  Such written history gives us a glimpse at human resilience in the face of hardship.  Sometimes, those records also give us a look at the personal cost and individual triumph in the human experience.  One well-known account is a perfect illustration of this:

An aged and travel-weary woman espied the green band of trees off in the distance and knew it marked the river where the travelers awaited her.  She should reach it well before evening.  A cool, flat rock invited her to rest, for she was quite weary.  The stress of travel, however, was not nearly so heavy as the weight of the Eternity that she knew was closing in on her.

A light breeze teased the leaves of the few trees nearby, and the gentle coaxing relaxed her into a nostalgic reverie.  She began considering her life past, its blessings and its tragedies.  Her questions to God for answers were muted by her acceptance of His will regardless of her cost.  Thoughts of Elim, her only husband in life, warmed her soul and a door to yesterday was slightly opened.  Once again she smiled at Elim’s pride in completing the first pair of shoes he had ever made for a baby and smiling even broader at the memory of her oldest son taking his first steps in them.

Elim was a good provider and a loving husband and father, and, when living necessities became scarce in their homeland, he joined with a number of his neighbors and took his family to a land east of his home where resources were more plentiful.  During his efforts to restore his family to a comfortable life, he himself was stricken and died.  His widow, with the assistance of helpful neighbors, rose to the task and raised her boys as a single mother.  They grew into young men, providing for the household and bringing their new wives into the home.  But this woman, this scrappy  survivor of hardship, was brought to her knees once again, and her daughters-in-law became widows also.  Her husband and sons were gone, and, with them, her whole purpose in life also fled.

Conditions in her homeland had improved, and fellow ex-patriots began streaming back home.  She knew some members of a group passing her house and, after conversation, decided to go with them.  Since she would need a little time to gather her things and settle accounts, they agreed to wait for her at a river crossing one day’s march to the west.

Trading most of her possessions for a donkey, she laded it with necessary provisions and a few sacred mementoes from her life now gone; that was the easy part.  The hard part was convincing her daughters-in-law, who had packed and were ready for travel, that they were better off remaining here in their native land with kin and starting their lives over.  She herself had a very iffy future and she would not be able to provide for them.  After several false starts and repeated reasoning, she and the donkey left their home behind, heading alone toward uncertainty.

One of the rebuked daughters-in-law was not happy that she had given in to the matriarch’s demand.  Her husband’s mother had welcomed her into their home and shown her all the love a mother would give her child.  In return, she had abandoned that love in favor of a better life.  After a few hours of internal debate, she made her decision:  she would defy her mother-in-law’s wisdom, and, immediately set out to rejoin her.

At first the old woman thought the past was calling to her in the guise of the whispering breeze.  With a start, Naomi realized there was someone calling from along her track, and was horrified to see Ruth running to her and shouting, “Mother!  Mother, wait for me.”

From within their embrace, Naomi began to protest this child’s disobedience, but, her words were muffled by Ruth’s hand lightly, but, insistently, pressing against her mouth.  In a voice of soft resolution, Ruth commanded, “Hush, Mother.  Hush.”

For a moment they looked at each other and Naomi, tears streaming down her face, softly stroked her daughter’s cheek.  Ruth, her eyes closed for a moment and streaming her own tears, clasped Naomi’s hand and pressed it tight to her cheek before quietly saying, “You cannot make me go back, so do not try to keep me from following you.  Where you go, I will go…   where you sleep, I will sleep.  Your people shall be my people, your God my God.  Where you die, I will die and be buried there with you.  If I let anything but death separate me from you, may the Lord deal with me, even to taking my life.”

It is not recorded which possessed the most love for the other.

That third rock continues to spin and the restless fabric of life surges and ebbs across its surface.  Elements of the human story maintain a state of flux, while — for the human spirit — there are three enduring constants:

  • Hope – the perceived promise of fulfillment
  • Faith – the belief that the promise can be attained in spite of harsh realities
  • Love – the willingness to sacrifice all in the name of Faith to attain that Hope

Faith and Hope are intangibles, while Love is the real-world act that gives them life.  As the letter-writer Paul eloquently noted…







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