“And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.”
Ruth 1: 14
King James Version
“When Family Are Friends”
“There are people whom one loves immediately and for ever. Even to know they are alive in the world with one is quite enough.”
What does it mean to me to have family members who are my friends?
How does it make me feel when friends become as close as family members?
“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”
“If your soul had never suffered never could you have entered mine.”
Julie de Lespinasse
Throughout the Scriptures, kinship is cultivated, explored, and we even see it being torn apart, as God’s Word, in the clearest terms possible, lays out before us, the qualities and characteristics which are the essence of building solid relationships.
Nowhere are the hallmarks of family friendship so distinctly portrayed as in the book of Ruth. And specifically, within the portals of the devoted union, which flourished in the daily lives of Naomi and both her daughters-in-law.
For the next few days, I want to scrutinize more carefully three special qualities that turned friends into family members and family members into friends.
There is a statement that you “can’t choose your family.” There’s a great deal of truth to these words. None of us is given the opportunity ahead of time to choose who our parents will be or to choose who our siblings will be. Sometimes this fact works for our general good, but at other times, it is for our profound ill. None of us can make a list and then ask that the qualities we have enumerated are contained in those individuals we call “family.”
Long ago, when my sister and I were in our late teens, the struggle we call, sibling rivalry, reared itself in the relationship I had with my sister. Trying too often to make our own distinct way, sometimes meant attempting to elbow out the other person or to try and upstage them. Before we knew it, what had been, for many years, a very harmonious relationship, soured and turned into a contemptuous contest for superiority. It took some time, before our immature behavior, allowed my sister and me to see how blessed we were to have each other in our lives. In other words, it didn’t just happen that family members were friends – we needed to work on becoming friends.
One of the reasons I’m so thankful the Bible devotes an entire book to the life of one heathen, Moabite woman, is that it allows us to focus on some of the familial situations that are easily bypassed in a quick once over of stories like Daniel in the lion’s den or David and Goliath.
Naomi and Ruth’s story isn’t a tale of mighty warriors in battle or heroes fighting wild beasts. Theirs is a story that contains the simple and unadorned nuances of daily life. Their story is about the subtle events that happen each day, and yet can have an eternal effect on another’s heart and soul.
Naomi was a mother-in-law, who was widowed and then left with two Moabite daughters-in-law who also faced the miserable challenges of widowhood. She cooked food. Ate meals. Took care of her family. Went to funerals. Wept. Worried. And lived. Day to day, she lived, doing normal activities. Performing her regular routine.
But, during those “normal,” even “dull” days, the gentle scent of unembellished love infused the lives of those she met. Perhaps it was because Naomi lived up to the Hebrew meaning of her name, “pleasantness.” Whatever the reason, it didn’t take long before Naomi’s daughters-in-law became more than her son’s wives. They weren’t just relatives because of who they married. They became family who were friends. Some legal document didn’t tell them how they related one to another, their hearts did that. And once attached in such complete oneness, the bond of friendship that drew them together, could not be broken apart.
Author Mary H. Catherwood observed, “Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.” This is what resulted in the friendship between Naomi and Ruth.
In the pages of Ruth, God has left us with a portrait that allows us to explore the beauty that can be fostered within a family life where we are not brought together out of choice but may still discover the attributes that will link our hearts in loving friendship. The great American author, Ralph Waldo Emerson shared this beautiful thought when he noted, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship. Instead, he found in his own personal relationships that it was, the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when (they) discover that someone else believes in (them) and is willing to trust (them) with (their) friendship.”
This is the relationship we find shared in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. Joined by family ties they became friends.
If this is the type of relationship you would like to cultivate within the field of your family, then I invite you to return to the garden for the next three days as we explore the qualities in Naomi that God has given to us as our guide for radiating loving friendship within our homes.
“Large was (her) bounty, and (her) soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send;
(She) gave to misery, all (she) had – a tear,
(She) gained from Heaven, ‘twas all (she) wished,
“Meditation on Friendship”
“ Sometimes one meets a kindred soul,
Stretching out the hand of friendship
To grief, itself a deep dark hole
The hand extends a strong firm grip.
To hold, to climb into the light,
Towards the sun, the world and life
Away from fear, dismay and night
To leave behind the pain, the strife.
The friendly smile, the listening ear,
Consolation in my time of need,
Kindness, to wipe away each tear,
The hand of friendship, strength indeed.
Into the depths there came a hand,
Helping me through the nightmare time
To face the world, to make a stand
By friendship’s sake, I made that climb.”
“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts not measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeets jesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal.
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