10 ~ Second Time Around

(based on the Book of Ruth)

Part 1 ~ Letting Go

      The three mourning women looked one last time at the graves, picked up their packs, and took the first step on a journey that would
dramatically change the life of one of them, and the course of history.  

      Naomi, now grey haired and looking too old for her years, thought back on how her strong husband and two healthy sons had come
with her to Moab when the famine hit Bethlehem.  But now all three men were dead, and she would have to go back home empty, alone,

      "Oh, God.  Why did you have to take them?" she prayed within herself in agonizing silence.  "Yes, I know they're in a better place
now, but what about me?  And besides, there was so much more left for them to do in this world.  Why?"  [1]

      Unknown to her, Ruth too, arm in arm with her sister-in-law, was breathing a prayer to the God of her husband's family.  "Jehovah of
heaven and earth, who I am told created all things and all peoples:  Why are our two husbands dead?  They were just beginning to live.  
We are young.  They were young.  We were just making our plans, and talking of going back to Bethlehem together.  We were so happy.  
Then it all turned into that nightmare.  How could you just allow them to be taken from us?  There was so much to live for still."  

      "And to add to it all, neither Orpha nor I were married long enough to conceive a child by them.  How can a family name just die?  
Why couldn't we have had someone to carry on the family name?  Someone we could look at as part of the flesh and blood of our
husbands?  Someone who could keep them alive in spirit?  It just makes no sense, Jehovah.  I do not understand it...."  And she wept.  

      Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah sometimes held each others' hands as they walked, with their packs secured to their donkey.  Sometimes
they helped each other over rough or high places in the road, and sometimes they just touched because they needed one another.  The
touch said more, often times, than anything they could say adequately enough.  [2]

      They hadn't walked very far when Naomi stopped.  The other two wondered at her tiring so easily, with such a long journey ahead of
them.  But that hadn't been the reason.  

      It was abrupt.  "Stay here, daughters."  

       "What are you saying?"  

       "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home.  It isn't fair for me to take your mother's place."  

       "No!   We love you, Naomi."  

      "May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me."  

      "You are all we have left of our beloved husbands.  We need you.  And you need us."  

      "May the Lord grant each of you rest in the home of another husband."  

      "But all we ever wanted were your sons for our husbands.  We could never remarry."  

      As though she hadn't heard anything they'd said, Naomi kissed them and told them goodbye.  They wept.  But none of them started
to walk again.  A magnet of love kept them together in their little huddle beside the road.  

      "Oh please, Naomi.  You are closer to us than our own mothers.  We want to go back with you to your people.  We want to remain
part of your family.  You have so much love.  Please don't keep us from it."  

      "Go now, daughters.  Why could you want to stay with me?  Can I bear any more sons?  Go on back home.  I am too old to have
another husband.  And even if I thought there was still hope for me ~ even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons ~ would
you wait until they grew up so you could marry them?  Of course not.  It is more bitter for me than for you that the Lord has dealt with us
as he has."  [3]

      The young ladies looked at her in disbelief.  Their pleading tears turned to sobbing.  But finally Orpah, being thus gently persuaded,
kissed her mother-in-law goodbye forever.  Then she turned back toward the city where she'd been born.  

    "Now you, Ruth, must go back with her to your own people and your own gods.  Hurry so you can catch up with her," Naomi urged. "I'll
be okay.  I can find someone else to travel with.  And I have relatives and friends I've known all my life back in Bethlehem to take care of
me.  Now go.  It will be the best thing for you."  

      But Ruth had her heart set.  "Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you."  She looked steadfastly at Naomi, her
hands embracing Naomi's tear-filled cheeks.  "For where you go, I will go.  Where you stay, I will stay."  

      She took Naomi's aging hands in her own.  "Your people will be my people, and your God my God."  

      Then, with the ultimate sacrifice in her heart, she added, "Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.  May the Lord deal with
me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."  

      Naomi had had no idea Ruth felt so strongly about her.  She could not turn down such love.  Deep in her heart she knew they
needed each other, for each had strengths the other did not.  They would complement one another.  And Ruth had obviously come to
believe in the God of the Hebrews.  So she allowed her to go along with her back to Bethlehem.  [4]

      The trip took many days, but they were grateful they'd been able to associate themselves with a small caravan of Hebrews going that
direction.  It was early autumn and they became hot and dusty and tired.  But they had already been exhausted by the grief of their loss.  
This did not seem to make things any different for them.  After some time, Moab grew farther and farther behind them, and Bethlehem

      One afternoon just as the sun was red and saying good-bye in a blazing autumn splendor, the two walked through the gate of the
little town Naomi had loved so well.  

      "Who's that strange woman?"  The word spread that there was a stranger in town, not uncommon for such a small community.  
Everyone was always curious because everyone here was related somehow.  It was the older people who began to realize it first.  

      "She looks like someone we know.  It couldn't be....  No.  Yes.  It has to be.  Grey haired now.  And so old looking.  But that's definitely
her.  That's Naomi."  

       She hasn't been gone that long.  Her hair wasn't grey before she left.  She looks so drawn and suddenly old."  

       "Where's her husband?"  

       Where are her sons?"  

       "Who's that with her?"  

       "She's wearing mourner's clothing.  What tragedy has happened to that poor woman?"  [5]

       Her lifetime friends and relatives spread the word through the neighborhoods.  By the time she stopped at the city well, everyone
came out to greet her.  They asked her questions.  They gave her water.  They offered to assist her as she walked her last steps to her
old home.  

      Up until now Naomi had only returned hellos to people and acknowledged simple questions.  But as those close to her walked with
her to her home, they grew silent in respect to an unspoken grief.  

      Finally Naomi sighed and spoke her heart.  "I went out full."  She paused.  Tears returned as they had a thousand times before the
past year.  "The Lord has brought me home again, but empty."  

      They knew her husband and sons had to be dead.  "Oh, Naomi, we are so sorry."  

       "I don't care for that name any more.  That name, Naomi, reflects a happiness I no longer have.  Call me Mara.  Call me the name
that reflects the terrible and bitter things that have happened to me.  Please, everyone, just call me Mara."  

      "The poor woman.  She has been through so much."  

       "My whole life has been taken from me.  All I have left now is Ruth here who had married Chilion.  We buried them all."  [6]

      They arrived at Naomi's old house, left empty for so long.  Her friends offered to run get brooms to clean it out a little.  But Naomi
turned down their offer, assuring them they would be okay.  Then she and Ruth entered the empty house ~ empty in countless ways.   

       Now, despite her pain, Naomi felt the security of being back with her relatives and the people she'd known all her life.  She was
grateful for a safe trip.  She had made the right decision to return.  

      Ruth swept everything out so they could eat and sleep a little more comfortably.  For their evening meal they just opened up their
travel packs and ate the last of the dried figs they'd brought with them.  There was no use trying to cook.  

      They sat down and thanked the God of the heavens for providing them enough food to last the trip.  Although Naomi had so
approached the Divine at all meals before, it was more difficult this time.  This had been her home.  Her husband had always prayed
aloud for them.  She visualized her husband and sons sitting at that very spot just a few years ago.  Now she was there alone.  Except for
Ruth.  Blessed Ruth.  

      After their meal, Ruth cleaned up and Naomi sat in a corner of the room watching amidst the lamp light.  Shadows of the past danced
before her.  Yes, there had been laughter and singing and plans and everything that goes on in families.  Birthdays, games, making
clothing, all the things that are part of raising children.  Joyous times.  But the shadows were so vague.  They never stayed very long.  So
much like her memories.  

      At last the women settled down for the night.  They opened their bed rolls and looked forward to a long night's rest, one in which they
knew they wouldn't have to rise early and begin traveling again.    

       But Naomi's rest did not come, as she had expected.  Yes, she was grateful to be back home.  But she kept looking over to where
her husband had slept for so many years.  She reached over as though to touch him again.  She could only touch his memory, and that
was so hard to grasp.  Eventually, though, she was blessed with sleep.  [7]

       The next day the two women got up early, drew extra water from the town well and went back to give their house a good scrubbing.  
Naomi unlocked the storeroom where she'd put away things that were needed to make the house more liveable.  She got out pots and
rugs and stools and many things she had forgotten about.  Some things were ruined during storage, of course, but overall they had come
through the years well.  

      Mid afternoon they went to the market to buy food.  Naomi saw many of the same merchants that had been there for the past forty
years.  Of course, some had set up business since she left.  She needed to reorient herself as to what all was available.  They looked
more than bought.  They were able to get a few basic food staples with their dwindled funds.  The day was busy.  

      When they had their evening meal, they were glad to have such fresh food once again.  Overall, things looked a little more homey
too.  Naomi told her daughter-in-law that they were settled enough to start with.  And, since their funds were now gone, they'd have to
work out something for more food.  She'd explain to Ruth what to do the next day.  But for now, they were to get a good night's rest.  
They'd earned it.  [8]

      That night when everything grew still, Ruth lay awake thinking of her new home.  This was actually the house her beloved had been
born in, had grown up in, and laughed and learned and worked in.  Oh how she missed him.  How she longed for his laughter again, his
voice, his touch.  Her skin felt prickly in its own effort to reach out and touch him once more.  

      Sometimes tears came to her eyes against her will.  Hadn't she wept for him long enough?  It had been a year since his death.  She
should be getting used to it by now.  But how do you get used to it?  How do you get used to a part of you being taken away forever?  

       Get your mind off of it, Ruth.  Think of something else.  Just think about your new home.  New friends.  Everyone so far has been so
kind.  Didn't you see some beautiful cotton fabric at the market place today?  You could make yourself something pretty.  Oh, but you
can't.  Your husband isn't here now to provide things like that.  Whatever work you manage to find will provide just enough money to buy
needed food and supplies.  If he were only here.  If he were only back.  "Oh, my husband," Ruth whispered in the darkness.  

      But remember, you have no husband now.  He is gone.  Gone forever.  You must make a new life for yourself.  You must quit looking
behind.  You must look forward to a good life.  You cannot allow your spirit to melt and die.  

       You still have a future.  He would want you to smile again.  To laugh again.  To find another husband and live again.  

       But no one could ever be like him.  He can't be replaced.  You don't need to replace him.  There will be someone else.  Someone
different.  You are different now, you know.  Let Jehovah guide you.  Naomi said he would.  

       Ruth's struggles back and forth eventually faded into a sigh, and the next thing she heard was a bird outside her window.  It was
morning.  A new day.  A bright day.  A day of new beginnings. [9]
                                                Part 2 ~ Single Again  

       "Good morning, dear one."  Naomi noticed her stirring.  "We have a big day ahead of us.  We're out of food again."  She didn't seem
too worried.  "So today we're going to take care of that matter."  

       Her daughter-in-law had been aware that they'd eaten the last of their bread and fruit two days ago, and that they'd only had enough
money left from the trip to buy food for just yesterday.  She'd worried about it, but Naomi had reassured her there was no need to do
that.  Thus her trusting mind was put to ease.  But just where did Naomi intend to find more money?  She surely couldn't buy a field and
plant and reap it all in one day.  Ruth smiled at the thought.  

       "Ruth, the laws of our people have provisions for the poor and widows such as we.  They allow us to go to any field of our choice to
pick up what the reapers miss or drop.  They are not allowed to go back.  Too, they're not allowed to reap the corners of the field.  All that
is to be left behind."  

       "Your God has provided good laws for you.  I will go out today and pick up grain as you have explained.  It is a good thing it is the
harvest time of the year."  

       Naomi smiled at her knowingly.  It had been no accident that she had chosen this time of year to return to her homeland.  

      "You stay home and rest.  Put away some of your things and visit with some of your old friends.  But mostly you should rest."  [10]

       "Now Ruth, you be careful.  If any of the men in the field you select begin to  come around you and bother you, just leave and go find
another field.  Your safety is important.  Look for the owner's servant girls and pick up grain behind them.  That will be the best."  

       The two kissed goodbye at the door and Ruth left.  She had noticed full fields of grain when they had come in to town three days
ago.  She decided she'd go in that direction.  She went out the gate and traveled down the same road they'd traveled from Moab, but this
time just for a short distance.  

       She had taken a little longer to get out to the field than she normally would have had she known exactly where she was going.  The
sun was already beginning to grow hot.  Ruth selected a section of the field and began to pick up grain left behind by the paid
harvesters.  She made several trips over to the side of the field to pile up what she'd accumulated in her basket.  Slowly her stack of grain
grew.  She felt lucky no one had bothered it thus far.  

       Two hours passed.  Small shelters were scattered around the field.  She walked over to one of them and sat in it a few minutes to
rest.  She had brought a little water with her, but saw that it was not going to be enough.  However she'd have to take care of that problem
when it arrived.  In the mean time, she'd have to get back to work.  

       Slowly she worked her way across the field.  Another hour passed.  She heard some shouting.  She looked up and saw a man on a
horse riding up, and the harvesters in that part of the field greet him.  Boaz looked around his field a moment and then dismounted.  He
looked again over toward where Ruth was.  Embarrassed that she'd been caught staring, she quickly went back to work.  

      "Who is she?  That strange young lady out there?  Where did she come from?"  

       His foreman explained that she was the woman Naomi, er rather Mara, had brought back with her from Moab.  Of course he knew
who Naomi was, being his cousin.  

       "She asked to gather behind our harvesters.  Then she went out into the field and has worked steadily from morning until now,
except for a short rest in the shelter."  

       "She is very lovely," Boaz responded.  Then his voice became more authoritative.  "Now listen to me.  You men are to leave her
alone.  Do you understand?  If anyone bothers her, he will have to answer directly to me."  

       Then Boaz walked over to Ruth. "Excuse me."  He cleared his throat.  Ruth looked up shyly.  She immediately noticed how handsome
he was, and embarrassed herself.  [11]

       "I understand you are Naomi's daughter-in-law.  How is Naomi?"  He couldn't get used to calling her Mara.  He asked about the
deaths of his older cousin and two sons.  Ruth quietly answered all his questions and made herself not let it bother her.  

      "Please accept my sympathy for the passing of your husband."  

       She nodded in acknowledgment.  

      "Listen to me now," Boaz continued.  "Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here.  Stay here with my servant
girls and follow them," Boaz urged.  "I have told the men not to touch you."  

      She was grateful for his consideration.  

      "urthermore, whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."  

     By this time, rather overwhelmed by his concern and kindness, Ruth bowed her head to him in respect and gratitude.    

      "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me, a foreigner?"      

    "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you left your father and
mother and homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before."  Boaz smiled gently and went on.  

      "May the Lord repay you for what you have done.  May you be richly rewarded by the Lord under whose wings you have come to
take refuge."  

       Ruth, overcome by all the attention from so rich and powerful a man, entreated, "May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord.  
You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to me, though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls."  

      Grinning broadly by this time, Boaz started to walk away, but stopped again.  "Oh, uh, and at mealtime, come over here.  Have some
bread and dip it in our wine vinegar."  

       Boaz immediately walked over to the threshing floor and gave instructions for the food to be brought out.  When it was all prepared,
the workers were signalled.  He also signalled for Ruth to come.  Ruth added a little more to her pile of grain and then walked over to
where the other harvesters and Boaz were.  She sat down and he offered her some roasted grain.  

      There was much more than she could ever eat, so she filled herself and left the rest sitting in front of her.  Boaz had purposely given
her more than she could eat, and urged her to put the rest away to take home with her that night.  He reminded her that Naomi, er Mara,
would be hungry, and at that she was willing to go along with his suggestion.  Then she returned to the field.  [12]

      Now that she was gone, the foreman was finally able to speak.  "Boaz, she's been gathering in the wrong places.  We had some
sheaves already in place, and she went over there and took grain from them."  

      Boaz called the men of the field together.  "Now men," he announced, "we're going to treat this young lady right.  She is a foreigner
and doesn't know all our ways yet, but she is fitting in very well.  I understand she's still a little confused as to where to pick up the grain
and has gathered some among the sheaves you've already put together."  

       The men half way nodded their heads in agreement and mumbled.  They had been ready to just throw her out of the field.  

      "Now listen to me.  Don't embarrass her.  Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up.  
Don't give her a hard time."  

      The men were taken aback.  But one of them muttered, "Well, what do you expect?  Did you get a look at her?"  

      Boaz caught the comment but only acknowledged it indirectly.  "Do as I say.  And other than that, leave her alone.  She is my cousin's
widow.  She needs my help."  [13]

       So Ruth worked in the field until dusk.  When she had beat out all the stalks she'd gathered, it amounted to about half a bushel.  She
was pleased.  But she had no idea how much more than most people she had picked up that day.  She picked up her pack and carried it
back in to Bethlehem to Naomi's home.  

      When Naomi saw all she'd gotten in just one day, she smiled in amazement and hugged the naive young woman.  

       "Here's what was left from lunch too.  It's already roasted and there's enough for both of us to be filled."  

      "Where did you glean today, Ruth?  Where did you work?  Blessed be the man who took notice of you!"  

      "The name of the man who owns the field where I worked is Boaz."  

       Now it was difficult for Naomi to contain her joy.  "The Lord bless him!  The Lord has not stopped showing his kindness to the living
and our dear dead ones both!  That man, Ruth, is a close relative!"  

       Ruth was pleased, but thought Naomi was overdoing her exhilaration a little.  

       The older woman went over and picked up some of the pots she had cleaned and dried in the sun that day.  They were perfect for
storing grain, and indeed had been made for that purpose.  Little had she suspected she'd be filling them up so quickly.  She took the
grain and began pouring it in the first pot.  She hummed under her breath.  Things were looking up.  

      "You couldn't have chosen a better field.  Obviously he took a liking to you.  Of course, I can see why.  You are still so young and
pretty.  It wasn't all because we are related."  [14]

      Ruth was still confused, but knew the explanation would eventually come.  

       "According to Jewish law, the nearest male to a widow is to marry her for the sake of the dead nephew, uncle or brother, whatever
the case.  The first baby is considered belonging to the deceased husband to carry on his name.  Then all children born after that are
named for the present husband."  

       "You mean that he might want to marry me to carry on Chilion's name?"  Ruth inquired with a guarded smile.  

       "Yes. Yes, my daughter!"  

       "But I am a foreigner.  I am not one of your people."  

      "That doesn't matter.  You married a Jewish man ~ my son.  And now you have moved to our land and accepted our God as your
God.  That means you are indeed one of us."  

       Naomi started to mix some of the grain with water and an old yeast starter lump so it would be ready to make by morning.  "Did he
say anything else to you?"  

       "Well, yes, we talked a few minutes.  He even said that I was to stay with the harvesters until they finished harvesting all the grain I

       Naomi had suspected Boaz would make such an offer, allowing her to stay there all season.  However, she looked up and cautioned
her.  "It would probably be better if you harvested with his servant girls instead.  You are a beautiful young lady, and you do not want to
give the young men the wrong idea about how to treat you."  [15]

       She finished kneading her bread and wrapped it in a towel to set aside for the night.  

       "Now there's no sense in looking anywhere else for a better field.  You won't find one.  Besides, in someone else's field you might be
harmed.  And we don't want that, do we?"  

      "Yes, I agree with you.  I will stay in the field of Boaz."  

     So Ruth continued day after day harvewsting in the field of her late husband's cousin.  Weeks passed and the grain supplies at home
were accumulating beyond their greatest hopes.  It soon became evident to Boaz as he rode out to his field every day and saw her that
she was not only lovely, but also dedicated to whatever work her hands found to do.  

       One early evening a couple months later, Ruth and Naomi were eating.  "Daughter, I think it is about time to seek rest for yourself so
you do not have to continue to support us in this way and work so hard."  

       "What do you mean?" she inquired as she took her last bite of fresh bread.  [16]

       "Isn't Boaz a close relative of ours?  Remember what I said some time back about that?  And you have been with his servants all this
time in his field."      

       Naomi got up and trimmed a lamp for the darkness that would be upon them in a little while.  "Boaz has nearly finished threshing his
grain and will be spending the night tonight there as he has been doing lately to guard his harvest.  That is a common practice among the
owners of the field."  

      Ruth had lived in her new country long enough to realize that this was indeed the case.  Besides, her own people usually did it about
the same way.  So she understood.  

      "Ruth, do you like him?"     

      "Oh yes.  He is such a good man.  And he's fair and honest and...."  

       "And handsome?"  

       Ruth blushed.  

       "Now quit worrying.  It's time we women take things in to our own hands and let that Boaz know he's got to take care of a lawful
responsibility," Naomi pronounced definitely with a twinkle in her eyes.  


       "He's not our closest relative, but he's close enough.  There's only one other closer.  And he can take care of that situation easily
enough if he has a mind to.  But now we must concentrate on reminding him of his duty and help him along with carrying it out."  

       Ruth began to get suspicious, and showed it.  "Naomi, I just don't think we should....I should, well...."  [17]

       "Everything is going to be fine.  I have heard of this being done on a few occasions in my life when a man began to shirk his
responsibility.  If you follow my instructions carefully, all will be well."  

      Ruth knew she would do as Naomi suggested, because she always trusted her judgment.  And she knew Naomi would never have her
do anything that would harm her and wanted only the best for her daughter-in-law.  The feeling was very mutual.  She listened carefully.  

       "I have some water over a fire and all warmed up for you.  Wash yourself, add a little perfume, and put on your best dress."  

       Ruth did so as quickly as she could, still trying to comprehend the excitement that was beginning to develop in her life.  What if?  
What if he likes her enough?  

       Naomi ~ she didn't mind that name again~- was nearly back to her old self as she hummed and busied herself getting Ruth's clothes
out for her.  Together they combed her hair.  Naomi stood back and looked at her loved one.  "How lovely indeed you are."  

       They embraced.  Then Naomi explained her final instructions. [18]
                                                  Part 3 ~ Readjusting  

       "Don't try to draw attention to yourself as you leave town.  Just act as though you have a brief errand.  Go to the threshing floor, but
don't let Boaz know you are there.  Just sit behind some rocks or sheaves or whatever and wait for him to eat and settle down for the
night.  Watch to see where he puts his bed roll.  

       "Wait for it to grow dark, and give him time to fall completely asleep.  Then slip quietly over to where he is and lie down at his feet.  
Put a corner of his blanket over you so you don't get cold.  It will be plenty big enough.  Being on guard for thieves, he will wake up on
and off during the night.  When he does and discovers you, he will know why you are there and tell you what to do.  And don't worry. He
will be honorable toward you."  [19]

       The two embraced.  Ruth thought the custom was a little strange, but she trusted her mother-in-law.  As she left, she looked back
once more as Naomi whispered, "I'll be praying for you.  Tonight someone's dream will come true."  

       Ruth made it out of town just in time; for the gates would be closed for the night shortly.  Whereas she had tried to walk at an
average unnoticeable pace before, she now increased her steps so as to arrive where Boaz was before the sun was completely down.  

       Her timing was good.  She arrived while Boaz was well in to his evening meal.  So engrossed he was in his food that she was easily
able to settle herself down without his either hearing or seeing her.  She waited.  She watched him from the shadows, a little
self-conscious about what she was doing with such a strange custom.  

       He seemed in good spirits, eating and drinking heartily.  While cleaning up his crumbs, he hummed a tune.  Then he put his bed roll
over at the far end of a grain pile.  And just as the sun slipped away, he laid down.  Ruth picked up a little pebble and threw it over near
him to see if he would stir, but he did not.  She felt silly doing it.  She then crept very softly over to the sleeping figure, and laid down at his
feet.  Carefully she lifted a corner of his blanket and placed it over her.  

       The night went slowly for her.  She was nervous.  And a little cold.  She'd been too afraid of waking him up to take much of his
blanket.  She tried to sleep, but found it useless.  She experienced fear, joy, panic, elation, apprehension, excitement all at once. No one
could possibly sleep like that.  So she lay very quietly listening for him and waiting for a stir.  Occasionally he did stir, she'd become afraid
he might wake up, then she'd become afraid he might not wake up.  But about the middle of the night....  [20]

       "Huh?  What's that?"  Boaz sat up suddenly. ";Who's out there?"    

     He listened, didn't hear anything stir, and lay back down.  But this time he went farther down in his bed roll than he had before and his
feet touched something.  He sat up again, threw off his covers and jumped up.  Ruth sat up too, and that is as far as she could bring
herself to move.  She began shaking.  

       His eyes got big.  Then he squinted them.  "Who are you?" he demanded.  He could tell it was a woman.  But what woman?  

       "....I am, well, I'm Ruth."  She anxiously tried to remember the exact words Naomi had rehearsed with her to say, according to Jewish
custom.  Naomi had assured her Boaz would understand what she meant.    

      "Spread the corner of your garment over me, for you are my close relative."  

       Boaz relaxed, reached down, took her hands and helped her up.  He looked at her for a few long moments.  But Ruth didn't mind
how long they were.  She could hardly believe he was standing there holding her hands and looking into her eyes like that.  

       "The Lord bless you," he finally whispered.  He could hardly believe she had chosen him as the one she wished to carry on her dead
husband's name, his cousin's name.  There were other relatives as close as he, and there was one even closer to her.  She was so
young and pretty standing there in the light of the half moon.  

       "This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier.  You have not run after the younger men, rich or poor.  It could have
been to one of them you had gone tonight.  Instead it was to me."  [21]

      They stood there together in silence.  He could hardly believed it was she standing before him like this.  He wanted to shout it to the
whole world, and indeed he did so in his heart.  

      "Don't be afraid.  I will do for you all you ask.  All the people in town know that you are a woman of noble character.  It is true that I am
a close relative, but there is one closer than I."  

      Was he turning her down?  Had she made a fool of herself?  No, of course not.  Didn't he just say he would do for her all she asked?  

       "Stay here for the night.  There's no way you can get through the city gate now.  In the morning, if the man who is a closer relative
wants you, then let him have that choice.  But if he is not willing, I vow that, as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it."  He looked down at Ruth
with the eyes of new love.  He was determined to have her as his wife, and he would figure out a way.  [22]

      "Now lie down here and sleep until morning.  I will respect your honor."  

      Ruth was so elated, she knew she would not be able to sleep the rest of the night.  She drifted off to sleep occasionally, but her joy
often awakened her.  It was a good thing, anyway.  For when the sun first began to tantalize the darkness into vague shadows, she rose
up and began to leave before she could be seen and recognized by anyone else.  

       Boaz had agreed with this.  "Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor lest they get the wrong impression."  He
held her in his arms a few moments, then looked into her eyes reflecting the fading moon in the sky above.  

       "Before you leave, bring me your shawl and hold it out."  When she did so, he poured several measures of grain in to it, tied it up for
her, and gave it back.  "Now no one will wonder why you are going into the city so early in the morning."  

       Ruth and Boaz said good-bye with a new specialness, and she left.  When she arrived home, Naomi was up and dressed.  She
greeted the young lady with the same broad smile she wore the evening before.         

      "Well, how did it go last night?  I could hardly sleep thinking about you."  

       Ruth told everything that happened in as much detail as possible so she could relive it to it greatest possibility.  "He even gave me
this grain saying, 'Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.' "  [23]

       Naomi knew what this meant.  Naomi had figured Boaz right.  He did want Ruth as his wife and hadn't thought it possible because of
the younger men, and the one relative closer to her than the others.  And he knew that Naomi preferred him for Ruth and was willing to

       "You must stay home today, Ruth.  Harvest is about over anyway.  I knew all along that Boaz had eyes for you.  He had successfully
hidden it from himself, but he couldn't fool anyone in town.  We all knew it.  And now that he knows you feel the same about him, he won't
rest until the matter is settled today."  

       Ruth thought to herself.  "That's funny.  Here all along I thought he never even noticed me.  And he thought he could never have me
as a wife.  And we wanted each other all along without realizing.  What would we have done without Naomi?"  

      Of course Naomi was right.  Even as they spoke, Boaz was arriving at the city gate.  He had his plan all worked out.  He sat down with
the city elders where they met each day to talk over old times and to judge problems the younger people of town happened to come to
them with.  Not too much later the man walked by that Boaz was looking for.  

       "Hey, there!  Come over here by the elders.  They need to hear this.  I have a matter for you to consider."  

      The man came over and sat down, waiting curiously for Boaz to explain his business, if indeed it was business.  

       "Naomi is selling the land that belonged to her dead husband.  I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that
you buy it now in front of these witnesses.  You know you have first choice, being a closer relative.  If you don't, then I guess I'll have to."  

       The other man thought a moment.  "Yes, I could use another field.  I'll buy it."  

     "But wait!"  Boaz added quickly, having anticipated this kink in his plans.  "Naomi can certainly use the money from the sale, but you
need to be aware that by purchasing the field, the young widow Ruth will be involved.  You will be obligated to father a child in her dead
husband's name."  Now Boaz knew he had him!  

       "Oh?  Well, that's different."  The other man thought briefly.  "I can't do it.  If I did, my own children would not inherit as much.  You go
ahead and buy it if you want it."  

      "Well, give me the sign, then."  

       At this point the other man took his sandal off and handed it to Boaz in front of the witnesses saying that Boaz could now walk in his
shoes and take over his obligations in this matter.  The deal was now sealed.  [24]

       Then Boaz turned to the elders and witnesses and said, "You are witnesses."  Not by coincidence, he showed them the money with
which he intended to pay Naomi that very day for the land and the right to marry Ruth.  

       "I will now take Naomi's land to preserve the family name for it, and take Ruth as my wife to preserve her dead husband's name.  Now
his name will not disappear from among his family or the town records.  This day I will fulfill my sacred obligation to marry Ruth."  Boaz
made his declaration so solemnly.  

     Everyone smiled, for they knew this was more than the fulfillment of an obligation.  He was obviously beside himself with joy.  The men
all gathered around him and congratulated him.  Even the relative who'd turned down the arrangement congratulated him ~ as he took his
shoe back.  Some thought the relative said he'd buy the land just to watch Boaz squirm.          

       The elders had heard good reports of Ruth, and knew she would be a good wife to Boaz.  "May the Lord make the woman who is
coming into your home like the mothers of the twelve sons of Israel. May your name become famous in Bethlehem."  Little did they know.  

      As soon as Boaz could politely tear himself away, he walked with hurried steps to Naomi's house.  She opened the door before he
arrived, for she'd been expecting him and watching.  They were both all smiles, knowing that the other knew what had transpired.  

       "She's in there, Boaz.  You tell her."  

    So the elated man walked in to the room where Ruth was, looked at her with a special love, and said, "You will become my wife.  Oh
praise to God for giving you to me!"  Ruth responded to his embrace and felt warm and comforted in his arms, grateful for the love of a
man who was so great in her eyes.  

      There was a wedding in Bethlehem.  Ruth adored and respected her husband.  Boaz felt so blessed to be wanted by young Ruth that
he could never do enough for her.  They loved each other unceasingly, and made each other happier than either ever thought possible.  

       About a year later, in the little town of Bethlehem, a son was born.  Naomi liked to put him in her arms and take him for walks through
town and let people stop and tell her how beautiful he was.  

       "His name is Obed, you know.  Isn't he precious?"  

       The women agreed.  They were so happy the Lord had brought another family to Naomi and preserved her family's name.  "He'll be
famous, not only in Bethlehem, but throughout our nation.  Your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven
sons, has given you a new life to live for."  

       Obed did grow up fine and strong and successful.  Sure enough.  He eventually became grandfather to a king ~ King David.  And
one day, through this loving family, Jesus the Messiah would be born of Mary in that very town not too many streets over, and be anointed
by God to reign on David's throne forever. [27]
                                          THOUGHT QUESTIONS

                                               Part 1 ~  Letting Go

1.        When we marry, we plan to live and grow old together (1 Corinthians 7:39).  What we don't plan for is the inevitability of letting go.  After 50
years of marriage, what is the letting go process like for the widow?  Tell about some widows you
know (be careful about names).

2.        Those who lose husbands by death in their youth suffer a greater shock.  Plans intended for a lifetime are suddenly shattered and no sense can
be made of it (Job 7:6-10).  Explain how shattered dreams affect younger women differently than older ones.

3.        Naomi had to face the double burden of losing husband and sons, and she felt she would probably never remarry.  She did not want this for her
daughters-in-law.  She wanted them to heal, remarry some day, and not be lonely any more.  Apparently she felt their chances of remarrying were too
slim if they tended to her loneliness and postponed the letting go process.  Tell about someone you know who sacrificed a more secure future for the
sake of a younger person.  How could such a person guard against the sacrifice leading to bitterness in the future (John 15:12-15)?

4.        How important in adjusting to a husband's death is finding a close friend?  How can the close friend help (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10)?

5.        People were used to seeing Naomi with her husband for decades.  There briefly when she returned home they did not recognize her.  She did not
seem to be the same person.  Discuss the different attitudes people tend to have toward a newly widowed person and the awkwardness they feel toward
her.  How can she develop her own identity without her husband (Jeremiah 32:19)?

6.        With all we know of Naomi, she was a gracious loving and giving woman.  But when she returned to the emptiness of her home town and her
home, it overwhelmed her, and she became bitter (Ruth 1:20,21).  What can friends do to help such a woman out of this phase of grief?

7.        In early stages of widowhood, a woman lives in the past.  While it is good to look around and store in one's heart precious life memories, where
is the limit (Psalm 112:6)?  Where does it cease to serve a good purpose?  About how long does it take most women to let go of these memories and
make them secondary factors in their daily life?
8.        What are some good remedies for sorrow (Ecclesiastes 3:22)?  List as many ideas as possible.

9.        The still and loneliness of the night is usually the hardest time to deal with a loss (Psalm 6:6).  This period is probably the last hurdle in
overcoming loss, and sometimes never is overcome, even years later.  Give some specific and practical suggestions of what can be done alone during
the night to help this terrible feeling go away and bring peace.

GOOD WORK:  Send a note to a widow.  Tell her you know she will always miss her husband.  Then tell her she is welcome to call you any time day
or night, even if it's just to talk or go have coffee somewhere.

                                                Part 2 ~ Single Again

10.        Although a single-again person may wish to remarry some day, this cannot be her primary concern.  What is predominantly a new single
woman's concern unless she is financially independent (1 Kings 17:12)?  In your own town, do you believe things can get desperate for some widows?  
How can you find out?

11.        Although previously at ease with both men and women while married, a single-again woman find traits returning to her she never expected to
feel again.  If she was shy and awkward around men before she ever married, this often returns.  If she struggled with temptation then, she likely will
now.  Or however she was, this usually returns to some degree.  Do you think advice she has given to young women in the past would now apply to
her?  In which ways?  How would reading the Proverbs help her?

12.        Ruth found a male relative who could take care of things she couldn't.  Today it is important to have some man available to help with things -
advice on the car, moving something heavy, etc.  So that she is not neglected (Acts 6:1), who could a widow go to for such help?

13.        She may now be living alone.  There are some dangers in this.  She more easily is a target for assault, whether bodily or just being taken
advantage of by men at a business (Isaiah 10:2).  What should a widow do to make sure she is respected and safe?

14.        About a year after becoming single again, a woman is likely to have to contend with well-meaning matchmakers.  If a woman just is not
interested in a future relationship with a man, how can she firmly explain it to her friends (1 Corinthians 7:8,34)?

15.        Some widows wish to remarry some day.  If she is to marry a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:39), where should she go to associate with Christian
single men, and how should she conduct herself to reassure them she is a Christian?

16.        If a woman desires to marry a Christian man, should she spend her time trying to meet such a person, or working to make a good life for
herself?  How much can she rely on Proverbs 31:31 to attract a Christian mate?

17.        When a woman believes there might be a man in her life who could fill the emptiness with love again, how can she judge whether he would be
good to her after marriage (Proverbs 22:1)?  How can she go about finding out about him?

18.        In choosing a future mate, what about emotions being stronger than logic?  Is that still a possibility at her age?  How can Proverbs 3:13-18 help
her guard her future happiness?        

GOOD WORK:  Send a note to a young or older widow you suspect is having a hard time financially.  Invite her to have dinner with you, either one time
or once a week indefinitely.

                                                  Part 3 ~ Readjusting

19.        What Ruth did in going to see Boaz at night could have led to disaster had she done this with a dishonorable man (Proverbs 6:27).  How can a
single woman guard herself with good judgment against possible compromising situations if she begins to date again?  Name some situations that can be
good under one circumstance but not in another.

20.        Inner turmoil of "should I or shouldn't I?" probably is greater the second time around in choosing a mate.  An older woman is now more aware
of deceit in the world, of the pain of losing (again?), of having to adjust long-established life patterns, etc.  Someone once said, "If in doubt, don't."  This
can apply to any area of life and is true most of the time.  How can a woman know she has no more doubting?  When she is ready to do what
(Ephesians 5:22-24)?  If that determination is not there, should she marry him?

21.        There is a greater likelihood for older people marrying with a wider gap in age or financial circumstances.  Age means natural difficulties of old
age come much quicker.  One may be used to spending money lavishly while the other is used to scrimping and saving.  Although 2 Corinthians 6:14
refers to religion, it can also apply to other things.  How can this be discussed and worked out before marriage?  In the process, if tempers flair, might
some find out they were not suited to each other after all and should not marry?  Would that be bad?

22.        A lot of things have to be figured out in a marriage among older people today that were not a problem to Ruth.  Combining furniture, whose
house to live in, etc.  Do you think it would be better to pick and choose or try to sell everything and start over together (Amos 3:3)?

23.        Sometimes older single-again men have good-paying jobs and are tempted to spend a lot on a woman he wishes to marry in an attempt to "buy"
her love.  And sometimes an older single-again woman is having a hard time supporting herself, thus leaving her vulnerable (Exodus 23:8).  What can a
woman say and do to avoid such a situation?

24.        Boaz had to do certain legal things to make it possible to marry Ruth - among them, eliminating the "competition".  This he did graciously.  If a
woman today is being "wooed" for marriage by a man and finds he is using deceit to get her to quit looking at any other men, what conclusion can she
draw (1 Corinthians 3:13)?  How is this type person likely to treat a wife after marriage?

25.        Boaz had done much to make Ruth's life easier in the new town, but not too much.  He had fought for her among other possible suitor, but not
too much.  He was honored in the gates for his wisdom.  Older people marrying should be able to watch for signs of wisdom easier.  What are the signs
of wisdom (James 3:17)?

26.        A vital part of remarrying is putting the deceased mate in the back of one's mind and walking into the future, not with a replacement, but with
someone loved for who and what they are (Philippians 3:13).  How can the "forgetting" of the past be accomplished and the emptiness filled in?

27.        There are in-laws and children of the former marriage to consider.  What can such relatives do to jeopardize a remarriage?  What can they do to
encourage it?  What benefits are there to a remarriage (Ecclesiastes 9:9)?

GOOD WORK:  Send a note to a widow and widower who married each other, whether it was recent or a few years ago.  Tell them you are glad they
found each other.