I first wrote this post back in 2013 and have updated it over the years. There are so many women whose stories I am drawn to in the scriptures, but one I continually find my way back to is that of Ruth. I hope as you read these words and explore her story, you will find hope, as I have. What has been lost will be found. I know some of us may not believe those words right now, but my life, my story, are proof that they are true.
If there’s one thing in this life I am well-acquainted with, it is loss. I don’t say that with any bitterness or heaviness of heart; it’s simply the fact of the matter. I have lost my father, my step-father, my grandfather. I have lost a marriage. I have lost jobs. I’ve lost friendships and family, opportunities and moments in time, and there are days when I’m hesitant to hold onto anything too tightly for fear it will slip through my fingers.
But this; this cycle of loving and losing, of clenched fists giving way to empty hands–this is the way of life, the shared human experience. The Lord both gives and takes away; I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve sat with wives who have lost husbands, mothers who have lost children, children who have lost parents. I’ve held their hands in mine and wept silent tears for I can feel their loss, relate to the ache of emptiness.
And I’ve seen–seen that what appears lost forever actually isn’t. The things we lose we end up finding again down the road; perhaps in a different form, a different way, but found nonetheless.
Here’s the thing, though: we are unable to receive, unable to find, unable to fill the empty places when we are still consumed with what was taken from us. Yes, the loss is painful. It wounds our hearts, and the tears will fall, and we need to grieve and mourn for a time. But the old, at some point, must give way to new, or else we stay stuck. And sometimes, the only thing keeping us stuck is ourselves.
One of my favorite stories in the scriptures is that of Ruth, the foreign widow who walked away from the land she was accustomed to so that she may enter a new destiny. A study I am reading on Ruth said that one of the beautiful things about this woman was her ability to “weep forward”. She knew what grieving felt like: she mourned her husband, her homeland, all that had been familiar to her for so long. But she continued to move forward, even in her grief. She worked. She found her way around in a new land. And then the day came when she allowed herself to hope and believe in love again–that what she had lost in Mahlon could be found in Boaz.
So what does she do? Taking the advice of her mother-in-law, she takes the brave journey to the threshing room floor–but not before she changes her clothes. Scholars have suggested that it is very likely Ruth had been dressed in the garments of widowhood up until this point, which is understandable, taking into account the great losses she had suffered. But before she goes to meet Boaz, she changes into her “best clothes“, which is incredibly symbolic. It’s as if she’s saying she was ready to leave the mourning behind and walk into the possibility of something new.
Dear hearts, please know that I am not invalidating the immense impact loss can have on us. It hurts; I know, and we have every right to cry and mourn and feel that pain. But I also believe in God’s goodness, that he does not want us to ache and grieve and stay empty forever. There are some of us who have been in our mourning clothes for so long that they’re tattered and torn, dirty and stained, ragged and coming undone at the seams. But we stay in them because they’re comfortable now; we’ve been wearing them all this time, and they’ve almost become a part of us. We’ve been living in the loss for so long now that we’re actually not really living at all.
I read a great quote once that has stayed with me. It says that everyone, at some point in their lives, will find it necessary to let go of things simply because they are heavy. I’ve been thinking a lot about those words these days, as I take inventory of things like my life and my relationships and my faith and my past and my marriage and my health. In so many ways, I’ve been stuck in those mourning clothes, dragging them with me wherever I go, and then I actually sit and wonder why I feel heavy and weighed-down. Perhaps you too can relate. The best advice I can give you–give us, really–is that it’s okay to sit in that for a season. There are seasons of life that feel empty and fallow, a never-ending winter, a desert of perpetual exile. Feel that; be there. I truly believe there is fresh manna, new hope and a deep sustaining, that God gives us in those hard places.
But then, after you’ve mourned and lay the loss to rest, rise up. You were not made for a less-than life, a shrinking-back life. You were made for an abundant life. You were made to have the wind in your hair and the sunshine on your shoulders. You were made to breathe deep, gulps of clean air that fill your lungs in such a way you can actually feel them expanding. You were made for lingering over a warm cup of coffee or the last few crumbs of dessert, made for falling asleep on clean sheets, made for the smell of baking bread and the earth after it rains. You were made to know and be known, made to see and be seen. You were made for more.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
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