Sunday, December 4, 2011

“He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”

Those were the words that Naomi said to Ruth when she learned of Boaz's special treatment of Ruth. For those of you who are not quite the Bible nerd, here is the story of Ruth and Boaz in a nutshell:

Ruth is Bella and Boaz is Edward.... the end.

I'm kidding, gosh, totally kidding.

Ruth's first husband was an Israelite but they lived in Ruth's country, Moab, and after he dies she insists on returning to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth is a widow and a foreigner in Israel, and marrying a foreigner was generally a no-no for the Israelites. Since neither can marry, when they reach Israel they're essentially paupers, and in order to have food to eat Ruth follows behind the men gathering grain and picks up the pieces they drop, a humiliating task since those who resorted to it were the poorest of the poor. When the owner of the field notices her and learns of her loyalty to Naomi, he tells his workers to intentionally drop large handfuls of grain for her to pick up. When Ruth goes home and tells her mother-in-law what happened, Naomi informs her that Boaz is a distant relative, and a man known for his incredible kindness to everyone. Even better, he can claim Ruth as his wife according to the custom of the time. Faster than you can say "prince charming" Boaz and Ruth get married and waltz into the line of Christ.

If you know a Christian girl, or more specifically a Christian girl who reads Christian relationship books, you might have heard her say she's waiting for her "Boaz." Boaz is essentially the heartthrob of the Bible, interchangeable with the nonbiblical "waiting for my Mr. Darcy/Edward Cullen/Jacob Black/Gilbert Blythe/Mr. Big/etc." (Though I see no appeal in Edward or Big, but don't ask me to understand all women.) Anyway, Boaz is the archetype of the perfect man, the Disney prince who slays the dragon or kills the evil witch to save the helpless woman. It's true that Boaz "saved" Ruth in a way, and also that the story is a representation and foreshadowing of Christ's redemption of mankind. However I admire Boaz more for the beginning of the story than the end.

Yes Boaz married Ruth in the end, but let's remember that she was part of her husband's accumulated property and by accepting responsibility of her husband's affairs he sort of inherited her... it's still cool and everything because he did all of that just so he could marry her, but that's not quite my favorite part. Before he learned of their deeper connection he noticed her as someone in need of compassion and kindness. He did not hesitate to show her kindness in her moment of need, and it's safe to assume from Naomi's statement (the title of this post) that he already had a reputation as a compassionate man toward everyone. Meaning that before Boaz was even deeply attracted to Ruth, he showed her kindness as a human being despite her poverty and despite her status as an outsider.

Which brings me to Tim and my overwhelming luckiness as the future Mrs. Tim. I never said I was waiting for Boaz -as you already know I was much quicker to say I was waiting for my own Jim Halpert- but I was always taken by Boaz's example of kindness, kindness to a virtual stranger, an outsider. Tim is definitely the kindest man I know, and I should know because I am constantly on the receiving end regardless of whether or not I deserve it. But I was positively swept off my feet all over again just yesterday.

We hadn't been on a "date" in months. Yes, months. We are both so busy and so overwhelmed with stuff that it just hadn't happened. We eat out and spend most of our time together, but we're usually so busy or so exhausted that we just end up doing not much of anything. It was really starting to bug the both of us, and we knew it was time to not be so "married." Well a few days ago it occurred to me that it's December and Lynchburg is certainly big enough to have a Christmas parade. We did a little research and wouldn't you know it was that very weekend! It had been so long since we just went out and did something recreational that we were probably overly excited about an hour-long parade, but whatever. :)

We had an amazing time! I was showing Tim all the cool things about downtown, and I even discovered some new things, one of which was a little cupcake bakery that happened to be the only shop not closed early for the parade. He bought me a snowflake cookie and some hot cocoa, and we sat at a picnic table to eat our sweets. After a few minutes a guy appeared and asked us if he could sit on the bench next to us. I cheerily said "Go for it!" without really looking at him, but once I did... whoa.

Here's the thing. I'm not trying to build myself up or anything, but I typically have a bleeding heart for needy people/children/animals. When I see those ASPCA commercials on TV I have to change the channel or I'll cry and cry and cry. Ditto to any child sponsorship or children's hospital commercial. However when confronted with a needy person on the street it's a little different. I want to be nice, but my programmed response is of course to get very uncomfortable and subtly move my purse closer. I try not to be too hard on myself about it because I think most women know what I'm talking about. After all, as girls what are we told? Don't talk to them. Don't give them anything. It's not safe. You don't know what they might do. Even when we're women we're told, Don't go out alone after dark. Don't be alone with a strange man. Don't travel by yourself. What if you break down? You can't trust anyone. These remarks are usually followed by a reminder about the most recent missing girl on the news, and if only she had made safer choices that night. I'm not saying that's all bad advice, but I am saying what guy older than 18 is told not to go to Walmart after dark or make small talk with a stranger? Few I imagine.

As your typical young woman I have been programmed to be naturally cautious around shifty looking people, and boy was this guy shifty looking. I could tell that he was a drifter for all of the obvious reasons: the old dirty clothes, the duffel bag, beaten up skateboard, questionable hygiene. And to his credit he didn't ask us for anything; he just seemed to want some human interaction for a few minutes. Even so, my mind automatically began to search for a way to leave as quickly as possible. Tim on the other hand calmly ate his cookie, sipped his hot chocolate, didn't show any obvious signs that he wanted to leave, and he had genuinely friendly conversation with this man. As he attempted to make conversation with us (he hates television, reads the paper, and is interested in the Occupy movement), it became evident that he was either on something or pretty fried from having been on something in the past. Tim patiently listened, tried very hard not to ask the guy to repeat himself too much, and conversed. So simple it would seem. The man had been to Columbus; Tim is from near Columbus. The man really liked it there. Tim does too. The man doesn't trust the news, we don't watch the news either. I was frozen, partly nervous, partly stunned, and quite overwhelmed. When Tim was done eating the guy offered to throw the trash away, and Tim said thanks. So commonplace. Yet most people wouldn't have such an everyday conversation, exchange such everyday pleasantries, with this guy. And when we got up to leave, Tim said "It was nice meeting you." How often does that man hear that?

As we walked away I was filled with intense love for my future husband, deep gratitude that he wants to marry me, and sore regret that I hadn't been more conversational with that man. First I'd been such a girl, then I'd been so enthralled by what was happening that I hadn't really participated. "That was a good thing you did," I said to Tim, "Most people wouldn't do that." Then he said, "Well... everyone matters. He was created with a purpose." The best part is he looked at me as if that were the most obvious answer in the world.

How simple. How uncommon. How lucky I am. And what a wonderful date that was.

Thank you, Jesus, for my very real Boaz. I am daily reminded of his kind spirit, toward myself and others. He is my lifetime reminder to be an open and compassionate person. Your blessings are abundant when I truly do not deserve them.

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