Nothing ever remains the same. Change is inevitable. We trot out this well-worn banality on a regular basis, but never has it been quite so abruptly dropped upon our very doorsteps as in the current Covid19 season. The honest admit we’re ridiculously disoriented; at sea while trying to find our footing in the green, green grass of summer 2020. Going into quarantine was far easier than fighting our way out of the tangle is shaping up to be.
The craziness is, that we’re all hemmed in by governmental restrictions, attempting to be compliant, while at the same time embracing business as usual. I made the mistake of trying to drop off my recyclables the first moment the depot re-opened today. I still ended up waiting in the car for about half-an-hour, watching the line behind me snarl into a traffic jam! Trying to reclaim territory somehow forfeited is not as simple as it sounds.
Re-entry in any form is…well, tricky. Ask the astronauts, confronting atmospheric barriers as they head for home! A tiny miscalculation of angles could see you crisply incinerated in the stratosphere. One degree out of alignment in trajectory and you’re smashing into landfall instead of the ocean. Too much velocity, failure to decelerate, and you’ll snap all your parachutes and never survive impact. The myriad of computations and simulations that precede these exploits is incalculable. You and I only get one chance, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not that great at math. Brace for impact, because this is turning out to be a jarring, uncomfortable process.
Inevitably, my eyes are on scripture for instruction and inspiration these days. The Word never fails to deliver, even in the most obscure of circumstances. There’s always a pattern, a principle, a prototype. The saga of Ruth and Naomi snags my attention and seems highly apropos right now.
Two women, with almost nothing in their favor except faith and loyalty, set their faces to return home after a long, embittering season. If, in fact, they manage to survive the perilous journey unscathed, the odds are dicey, to say the least. Will any respect the aged and bereaved Naomi? Will Ruth the Moabitess be accepted into the clannish little Bethlehem, or ostracized? Will all their hope in better days be sadly disappointed?
The bedraggled pair manage the long, exhausting trek. Villagers have seen them coming from a long way off, but the homecoming is mighty lukewarm, no kidding. While they throw their threadbare mantles over some lone tree and lay out their meagre household, no kinsmen rush forth to offer hospitality. No one smiles over warm vittles and reunion greetings for the weary travelers. Re-entry is anticlimactic. (We’re not sure what we were expecting, but it wasn’t really this). The best they can do now is scrounge for survival.
You know how the story goes. While gleaning, Ruth’s industry and devotion win her the attention of a significant chief, Boaz. All through the story, the Lord is still ordering the equation through the faithful lovingkindness of His people. Against all odds, they find their rightful place once again.
What can we glean from this story? When you have nothing in your hand, no influence to leverage, on resources to barter, no power to control, character matters. Integrity in the unknown, when the chips are down, is already shaping the future. Unfailing companions for gloomy and treacherous journeys are found in the open-hearted, long-spirited, gentle and gracious. We learn from Ruth and Naomi that simple righteousness turns any situation, even if it does take time. Contrary to all evidence, we are not at the mercy of strong east winds of change. Stand in confident boldness and you will be the changing force of your environment, not the victim of it.
This is not the time to lose heart. The Captain of the Host is already in motion. He deflects the heat, He blazes the trajectory, He works the angles, He cushions the landing. He's breaking all the barriers, and making a way for re-entry.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle. Psalm 24:1,7-8
So keep it simple, saints. In these days, order what you can. Meet the challenge of each hour as it unfolds. Set your face like flint, and let the chips fall where they may. All is well.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and gambol as calves of the stall. Malachi 4:2 RSV
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