I don’t like going to the dentist. I don’t like the picking and the scraping. And God forbid that there be any drilling! Although I have had a fairly stellar record at the dentist, even the cleanings give me the willies! So when my hygienist wanted to do a deep cleaning at my last visit, she put some liquid Novocain on my gums. She told me it would taste bitter and boy-oh-boy, she wasn’t kidding! That liquid ran down the back of my tongue and not only tasted terrible, but numbed my throat more effectively than the gums she was working on!
Our lives are full of experiences that are bitter, don’t you think? Some of the experiences are slightly bitter, like liquid Novocain, and are quickly recovered from.
But other experiences leave such a residual bad taste in our mouths that we can’t stop thinking about them. We ponder the Why, the How, and the What of the situation. We talk about the problem; we think about the problem; we pray about the problem. But real, authentic bitterness is more like a soul tattoo than like Novocain that wears off. It’s going to take a purposeful procedure to get that removed.
If bitterness was collateral, then Naomi would have been a millionaire. Naomi was a woman in the Bible who had seen her share of sad days, losing her husband and then both of her sons. These losses and the accompanying grief were compounded by financial distress. Because of the culture she was living in, not having a male to provide for her, be it a husband, a son or a grandson, put Naomi in a very stressful and scary position. Furthermore, she had two daughter-in-laws to worry about. They were lovely girls, mind you, but they were more mouths to feed. So she told her daughter-in-laws that they should return home to their families, something that was not in accordance with the custom of the day. But Naomi didn’t know what else to do. She planned on returning to her family in Israel and hoping for the best. Maybe someone would have pity on her and take her in. Otherwise, she would become a beggar on the street – as if life hadn’t been hard enough on this older woman who was just trying to get through each day under the intense weight of her sadness. Have you ever felt so sad that you no longer cared what happened to you? Naomi felt this way. And I’m sure just trying to think about how to take care of her daughter-in-laws while struggling under the pressure of grief and financial strain was too much for her.
One of the daughters agreed to go home to her family but the other daughter-in-law, Ruth, begged to stay with Naomi. So Naomi brought Ruth with her back to Israel, a land that Ruth had never seen before. Now Ruth is following a grieving widow while trying to handle her own grief and adjusting to a new culture. She had her own sadness and financial concerns pressing down on her, but her reaction to life’s stress was different than her mother-in-law’s. Where Naomi saw her loss and grief as a box that contained her, Ruth looked around for the new beginning. Where Naomi looked at the season she was in as the definition of who she was, Ruth looked forward with hope for what could transpire.