Doug and I were headed out the door to attend another Petersen birthday party. We’d only been married a year and I’d gone to more birthday parties than necessary. All this celebrating was foreign to me. Mom would barely remember our birthdays when we were growing up. Dad? Forget it. Dad was too busy working to pay for food and shelter for his family of 7 to be bothered with birthdays. Although after getting married, I did attempt for a few months to conform to the Petersen birthday hullabaloo, I eventually just gave up. Every year after, I went to town and purchased a fist full of toothbrushes and proceeded to divvy them out to each birthday recipient.
Doug’s brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews were a bit surprised when they first got a toothbrush for their birthday, but after 7 years, well, they looked forward to it, wondering what color of brush they would get next.
Cultural differences can be bridged. I may have not been hip to celebrate birthdays, but I did celebrate. The book of Ruth in the Bible offers an example of how cultures don’t need to interfere with one another or life.
The book of Ruth is short, sweet, and powerful. The book begins with Naomi and her husband who move to Moab with their 2 sons to escape a famine in the land of Israel. Both sons marry women of Moab. The respective wives were Orpah and Ruth. Oddly, all 3 men die. No details are given on their deaths but Naomi decides to move back to Israel. She tells the girls to go back to their families.
Orpah returns to her Moab family but Ruth digs in her heels and says she is moving with Naomi, “Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, ESV)
Over the last 30 years, I’ve come up with a menagerie of reasons why Ruth insisted on going with Naomi. Interestingly, these reasons correspond to my life experiences.
As a girl, I figured Ruth was like me. She had discovered something about Naomi’s God that she could agree with. For example, when in Sunday School, I discovered God as Father/Mother, not just Father, and went with it with my whole heart.
Later, in my 20’s, and as one who followed a strong gut instinct that led me to meet my future husband, Doug, I figured Ruth might have had a gut instinct about Boaz.
Then, when I was a foster mother, with eyes forced open to see a world of dysfunctional abusive families, I figured maybe, just maybe Ruth’s previous home life was something she wanted dearly to get away from.
For whatever reason, Ruth went with Naomi and helped her mother-in-law. Ruth met Boaz, and they later married. Ruth became the mother of Obed and great-grandmother of King David, in the lineage of Christ Jesus.
Ruth is quite a woman. She stood strong with her conviction, not that she was different from others, but that God expresses integrity, unity, foresight, courage, and dedication in any culture. That’s worth celebrating!