All of us are going to die.
Will you be content with how you’ve lived?
I’ve got to be honest. This COVID-19 pandemic got me thinking a whole lot more about how incredibly finite I am. (Translation: I’m more aware that I’m going to die than I have ever been.)
I don’t think that’s bad.
In fact, I think it’s very good.
It all started back in March of 2020. I kicked off my first week of sheltering at home with a walk in the meadows by my farm. I walked through dried stalks of chest-high winter wheat that had survived the deer and snow. My mind was heavy with questions. None of us knew really what was coming, only that some were dying. My lips uttered fervent prayers as I reached a ridge and looked down on what once was a bustling four lane highway. One lone mini van drove through the eerie emptiness. I know exactly where I was when I decided two important things:
- I’m OK if I die soon.
- I want to live better until I do.
I also know who I was thinking of when I thought these two things: my children. And my two precious grandbaby girls.
While I care (to some degree) what anyone thinks about me, I want my children to have peaceful and grateful hearts when they attend my memorial service. More than anything, my heart beats for the way I live to prove to them that I believe in eternity with Jesus Christ. And that I shared His love as long as I was able, not just with my readers and followers but with them.
This question echoed through me as I looked over the empty valley that day:
What will people remember about how I lived during this hardship?
Times of crisis define who we truly are and what we truly believe. And if those two things are worth anything, seasons of pain transform us more deeply into women and men of great character. They don’t just transfix by what’s on the television screens and news feeds.
That brings me back to my final life lesson from the Old Testament book of Ruth.
Life Lesson #4 from Ruth: Be transformed. Not transfixed.
Lots of people are transfixed by the headlines. Dictionary.com defines transfixed like this:
To cause (someone) to become motionless with horror, wonder, or astonishment.
Some have been frozen by fear of death, sickness, and the aftermath of rioting and indifference. Others cannot turn away from the astonishment that all the disagreement has caused. It’s like a demonic game of dominoes as one after another, good people get sucked into the vacuum of rhetoric that leaves hearts bleeding proverbially.
I don’t want to be transfixed by the news.
I want to let God use it to transform me into a woman worth remembering.
I believe that’s what we see Ruth experiencing through the pages of the book named after her. Life was hard. The book opens with famine, death, and unexpected life changes. How do we see Ruth responding when months or years down the road things haven’t fully “gotten back to normal?” Well, if you’ve been following this little series, you know she’s been making good choices and has been busily trying to do what she can to get her mother-in-law Naomi through the grief and disappointment. That includes humbling herself to pick up scraps of grain in a field owned by a man named Boaz. We find Ruth thanking him and trying to explain how she got to such a desperate place. And then this:
“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
Yes, I know!
I have heard!
Boaz tells her the word is out. People are talking about you, Ruth. She doesn’t seem to be aware of that. She was just doing “the next right thing.” And somehow that not only had Boaz, a man of some wealth and influence, aware of who she was and how she was live, but it also caused him to think about God. “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
Ruth had a reputation.
So do you.
So do I.
Is it the kind that has people talking about God? (And maybe I should add “in a good way,” since the behavior of some believers could make them distrust or question God.)
I suppose I should confess that I’m wondering: when we consider the overall reputation of Christians as a result of how we’re living through this pandemic, is it good? Does it point people to Jesus with our simple acts of love as we do the next right thing?
Church history tells a good tale of believers who endured a terrible fourth century epidemic that swept through the Roman Empire. Christians did not run from the cities or shut off their homes from others. One historian records:
“All day long [Christians] tended to the dying and to the burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gather together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
You know what happened? People started talking about them!
“[the Christians’] deeds were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the god of the Christians.”
Terrible times either transfix us. Or they transform us. Those believers in Rome— and Ruth back in Bethlehem—discovered that deep within them was the faith and peace to live like they believed in eternity with Christ when they looked death and despair in the eyes.
When our good deeds—not our opinions or theology or position of influence—are on everyone’s lips, we bring our God to their mind.
This kind of living outlasts us.
Because when they’ve carried the right character, your ancestors become more than a name on a genealogy report. They become #familygoals.
And that brings me back to your children. And mine.
I’ve spent a whole lot of time and energy trying to raise children to be good and godly. You probably have, too. So much of it depends on what is caught from us rather than what is taught by us. And right now, the way we are living is especially contagious.
Are you walking by fear or faith? Are you being transfixed or transformed?
Let’s talk about transformed living for just a sec.
The New Testament starts with the feel of an ancestry.com generated family tree. Jesus didn’t sign up for it, but someone named Matthew thought it ought to be recorded. (He’d apparently gotten over his tax-collecting and decided to collected far greater treasures!) He wrote down Christ’s family background, and included all the people who preceded Him in his human bloodline. And in this genealogy, we find a precious, hard-working, grain-gathering, widowed woman named Ruth who—spoiler alert—was married to Boaz!
I think Ruth was a woman who was transformed into further greatness by her trials. I kind of wonder: was God allowing the circumstances of her time, in part, so that she could be further transformed into the kind of great, great, great+ grandmother who would nurture the line of woman needed to raise the mother of Jesus to be a woman of character and faith?
I want my children to see the great pandemic of 2020 and 2021 as a time when I was transformed into something God needed me to be, not just transfixed by the happenings.
Tools to Go Deeper into the Book of Ruth!
For Women and Teens!
Do you want to dive deeper into the book of Ruth? Revive Our Hearts has some great tools for you and the teenager in your life!
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth recently broadcast an in-depth podcast series on Ruth to coincide with the release of an ALL-NEW Women of the Bible study on Ruth featuring a familiar True Girl teacher: Erin Davis.
Here’s a sneak peak of that conversational and contemporary six-week study.
This six-week study with Scripture memory, daily study, and group discussion questions is ideal for both individual and group study.
Do you have a daughter who might like to go deeper in the story of Ruth? True Girl, the ministry I lead for tween girls and their moms, has a study on the book of Ruth for girls ages 8–12. Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty. Together, you’ll explore topics like true friendship, finding joy in hard times, dealing with mean people, and seeing God in painful circumstances.
True Girl Bible Studies feature important women in the Bible so girls can learn from their example. We created them to help moms—and grandmoms—teach their daughters and granddaughters how to study God’s Word.