Thursday, January 10, 2008

I am not what happens to me.

I've just finished the book of Ruth, and am on to 1st Samuel.

But for you, I just want to park at this sentence in Ruth. It is spoken by a woman who has left her home during a famine. She's gone somewhere else with her husband and two sons. While away, her husband and both sons die, leaving her alone with two daughters-in law.

Hearing that there is now food at home, Naomi heads back home. Only one of the two in-laws goes with her. And when she hits town, she says this interesting sentence, "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. ... The LORD has afflicted me."

Now, the story is not really about Naomi, and most teachers bounce right on to Ruth's story. After all, it's a lovely romance about a poor outsider who marries the rich relative. Who wouldn't move on?

But Naomi's word's struck me.

Did you notice? Naomi has let what happened TO HER, become her identity. Her name, Naomi, means pleasant. But Mara, the name she chooses means bitter.

Okay, so she's had a really rough time of it.

But where is her focus? She's stuck on what's missing. What's happened. AND, she is blaming GOD for it all. "HE HAS AFFLICTED ME," she says.

I'm thinking, she could have come back with this as her focus. "At long last I am home. I have a daughter-in-law who loves me so much, she won't leave me. I will end my days with my family around me, in my own land, with my own people."

Instead, she says, "I am one who has loved and lost."

It would be like us saying these things:

"I am left." (her husband left her)
"I am infertile."
"I am a bad habit."
"I am multiple sclerosis."
"I am incest."
"I am lost my job."
"I am failure." (I missed a goal)

Truly, we are NOT what happens TO us. And, unlike poor Naomi -- who has suffered enormous loss -- we can choose to be grateful people, men and women who are overcomers. People who say these kinds of things:

"I am loved by God."
"I have been chosen to mentor rather than mother."
"I am an overcomer."
"I am a survivor."
"I am learning."
"I am reframing."

Though God, in the scripture, makes no comment on Naomi's expression to her old friends, I would have to say this:

If you look at yourself as no more than what happens TO YOU, you give away all opportunity for change and growth. No wonder Naomi was bitter!

Think about it.


Christina Berry said...

There is it, Bette. That's the kind of thing we want to read!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm actually gonna jump on to the blog first name, Kerrie, has two differnet meanings. One is DARK one and one is SEEKER of light. I dismiss the dark one and embrace the light one--in theory...but it seems so easy to live under the shadow of identity of DARK--seeing the worst thing that can happen way before it happens, not trusting, not believing, et.

Especially right now as Im battling cancer. I've had a hard time not putting on the identity of DARK ONE, because my life feels like it's in an endlessly dark valley where there is no light...

Yet, I've found when I do SEEK the light--focus on the Lord, his help, his strength, his nearness, his promises, I feel less deflated, more hopeful, and I'm knowing I'm in the light where I should be.

Anonymous said...

Bette! I just read in the women's ministry bulletin that you have a blog... and sure enough I looked it up and here you are.
I am blessed by your words of wisdom yet again in my life. I have had the joy of having you in my life for as long as I can remember. Thanks for being one of my church moms. I would not be the person I am today without you reaching out to me and speaking powerful (though I was not always wanting to hear it) words into my life! It is women of God like you that encourages me to press on.
I look at my life and I could say I am a Mara too... but because of the Lord and the church that was a witness in times of trials I am a joyful girl, ecstatic in the Lord! I think you would be proud to know that I have learned to say no. Ha! It has only taken me 27 years to learn how. Better late than never. I have found new freedom in standing up for my own life and the things that God has called me to fix my attention to. Thanks for the great big kick in the butt this summer. I know you were just being obedient to the Lord. It was the catalyst for big changes since then.
I will continue to read your blog and dig into the word with you. Thanks for being an amazing woman of God in my life! You are a treasure. Because of you I am blessed! Love ya!
Jami J