Who Is This Mara Person?

I just finished a bible study, “Five Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit.” Since it was the wrap up day, I thought I would read back through the book of Ruth, where the study came from.  I was struck by a couple of things that had very little to do with Ruth and everything to do with her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this precious story, because it isn’t just a love story between a man and a women, but it is also a story of the love and devotion Ruth had for her mother-in-law.  But, it’s Naomi’s story that could have been written today.

Naomi’s Story

So, a little background on our girl, Naomi.  She marries this guy, and they have two sons.  They move to a foreign land because there is a feminine in their country and after they got there, he dies.  She is a single mom in a foreign land, raising two teenage boys.  This boys grow and take wives of there own and after Naomi’s little family has been in Moab for ten years, her sons die also.  It’s been a tough time and in a nutshell, Girlfriend is hurting.
Naomi gets word that God has been doing some really great things back in her hometown of Bethlehem, so she decides that if she is going to have to be miserable, she might as well do it where her family is, because God isn’t really doing anything for her in Moab.  So, Naomi packs up her house, corrals the daughter-in-laws and they start their journey to Bethlehem.
Now the travel part is the part everyone knows, the “your people will be my people and your God will be my God,” speech, but so much more was going on here.  Naomi was broken and in her brokenness, she wanted to be alone to wallow in it.  I’m getting this image of pigs rolling around in the mud; the purpose is to be covered in it.  This was true for Naomi, she was covered in her grief and brokenness.  I would assume that Orpah going back to Moab probably just added to it.  I could just hear her internal rant, “see, even the daughters that God gave me are running away.  God doesn’t want me to be happy, if he did, I wouldn’t be in this mess, and I wouldn’t have lost her too.”  Naomi did not realize that in her grief, she was pushing those around her away.  Luckily, Ruth is tenacious, not letting Naomi walk this road alone.
Now, here is where this story takes a bend.  It’s been roughly two weeks that Naomi and Ruth have been traveling.  Naomi has had plenty of time to think about how bad her life is, so much so, that when she reached the gates of Bethlehem and her family sees her, she fusses at them and tells them she is no longer Naomi, which means pleasantness, that now, she’s Mara, meaning bitter.  Oh boy was she bitter and she blamed God for it.

Ruth 1:20 – 21 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Remember I said this was a modern day tell?  That right there was it, how often do we look at all that is going on around us, the set backs or miss steps and grow bitter?  How often do we sit in that bitterness and blame God for it?  All the stinking time.  We are just like those pigs, and just like Naomi, wallowing in self-pity and frustration, calling everyone we know, telling them how much life sucks and blaming God; we are changing our name to Mara.
Yet, as time progressed, Naomi saw something that we often miss: she saw God’s hand moving.  She saw how God opened a door of provision for her and Ruth, she saw God allowing a connection between Ruth and Boaz, and she saw God making a way where there seemed to be no way. When Naomi stopped focusing all of her attention on herself and actually took a step back, she was able to see with a new set of eyes.  Kind of like when you get glasses for the first time, and everything just seems to come into focus.
Naomi didn’t understand why things were happening the way they did, she just saw that everything she held dear had been taken from her.  But God was doing something bigger, God had a plan, He just needed Naomi to trust Him.  In the midst of Naomi’s biggest heartbreak how would she have know that she would be in the lineage of the Savior of the World.

Proverbs 3:5 – 6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

So how often do you look at a situation and say, “it is how it is, it’s never going to get better” or “God doesn’t care about me,” or “God must be punishing me for something.”  Sister, let me tell you, God is not punishing you, He is preparing you, and He is still writing your story. You may not see it now, you may never see it, but your reaction to your situation will determine your destination. When we hold onto bitterness instead of trusting that God is at work, that is all we are, bitter.  But when we just stop, that is when God can do his thing.  We may not understand why God allowed certain things to happen, but we can rest in the knowledge that His is working it for our good, that’s what it’s like to be brave; so don’t be Mara, just be you.
Hurray for Naomi and hurray for YOU.
Father, we know there are times when it feels like the whole world is weighing us down and we don’t understand what you are doing.  I thank you Lord, for telling us in your word, that someday we will.  Let us find peace when we put our trust in you, let us not grow bitter when we can’t see your plan or we think when we feel like it’s all falling apart.  Help us to see clearly and to be able to keep our eyes on you.  In the name of your most precious Son, Jesus.  Amen.
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Off The Grid

I was thinking the other day, what would it be like to be ‘off the grid’?  I thought, how nice it would be to not have to color my hair, I would have plenty of time to write and read books, I would exercise. Oh, my worship would be go good, because I wouldn’t have all of those distractions. I would live off of fruits and veggies and seafood in my tropical, coastal home; my health would be better, my outlook would be better, I would be better.

Of course, I wouldn’t be totally disconnected, because I would still want to be in contact with people and would need to do research.  Pinterest is research, right?  But I wouldn’t have internet in my home, I would have to go into the village to use it at the library or coffee shop. I would go into the village just enough for the folks to know my face, but not remember my name.  Such an awesome picture I was painting, it my mind, I was picturing the place where Jason Bourne lived at the very end of Bourne Identity.

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However, I more I thought about this picture, the more I realized that I had created this perfect life, complete with hammocks and coconuts, but devoid of a very important element in God’s design for me: People.  In my dream retreat, I had isolated myself, apparently, even from my family.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I enjoy being around people, but I also love to go on trips.  Weekend trips, weeklong trips; as a family, we took a two-week vacation last summer and that was the greatest for me.  I love to travel, see new places, meet new people.  I’ve always said, if money were not an issue, Molly and I would be on short-term mission trips all the time. We love being around people, so the idea of actually being without people is foreign to me.

This is because, God did not create us to do this life alone.  Even in the garden, with life as perfect as it could possibly be, God saw that Adam was lonely.  Genesis 2:8 says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” This always blows my mind just a bit, because Adam communed with God, but God could see that Adam needed someone more like Adam and less like the Almighty. I can picture it now, God telling Adam, “I love you little one, but you need some friends of your own.”

I can hear all of my introvert friends screaming now, “but I like being alone!” Yes, you do! I do too, sometimes, but total isolation isn’t healthy.  Through many of the stories I’ve read, even those of people who may have lived well off the grid, they still had contact with other people.  One man, who only talked to one person 27 years, still had contact with other people when he would go into their camps and stole their property.  Even in my own dream of living off the grid, there are still people.

There are countless studies about the effects of loneliness or being alone; depression and poor health are at the top of the list. English author John Donne said the very famous words, “No man is an island entire unto itself,” and Tenth Avenue North even have a song about it. But the Bible, God’s word, says a lot about it.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~ Romans 12:4-5

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” ~ Psalm 133:1

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

My favorite, coming from Jesus himself:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Matthew 22:36 – 39

 There are so many more scriptures in the Bible about being with other people; God did not intend for people to be alone.  He created us for community, He wants us to live with and learn from and love other people. You are not alone and you don’t have to be either.  Join a Bible study, go out with friends, make some friends.  Go on a date, go to a family reunion. You are not alone.

Father, you are so amazing, you created us to be a people that live life together.  It is your desire that we are with people who will lift us up, encourage us, and walk with us in our journey.  I pray Lord, that you will open doors of opportunity for us to meet new people, be in new places, grow in the knowledge that You designed us with two purposes, to love you and to love other people. I pray this in Jesus precious name. Amen.

He wants us to live with and learn from and love other people.