“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 24:19
I have a very distinct memory of reading the book of Ruth for the first time. I was about eleven years old and for the first time in nine years, I was on a trip without my mom or my nana. I was visiting my Uncle Shawn and Aunt Teresa in Sausalito for a few days with my younger cousin and although we were having a great time, the evenings brought with them homesickness. I missed my mom and nana so much that I could not fall asleep one night, so I picked up the Bible I had brought with me and flipped through it until I saw the book of Ruth. My nana’s name is Charlotte Ruth. I decided in that moment that I would read the book and it would help me feel close to my nana. The book of Ruth was way better than I expected. I became engrossed in the love story of Ruth and Boaz. For anyone not familiar, Ruth is a widow who moves to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi is originally from Bethlehem but Ruth is a Moabite. She is a foreigner there. The two women have no money or food and so Naomi, knowing the Jewish law, sends Ruth to the field of Boaz, to glean the grain that is left over by the workers in Boaz’ field. As one can see in the verse above, God made clear that if a sheaf of grain is dropped or ignored during harvest, then that sheaf should go to someone who did not have the luxury of dropping or ignoring food. Specifically, the sheaf should be left for the foreigner, fatherless and widow.
Boaz sees Ruth following his workers one day and picking up the extra bits and pieces of grain. Not only does Boaz welcome Ruth’s presence. He goes so far as to tell his workers not to bother Ruth but instead to actually pull out sheaves of grain from their own bundles and leave them on the ground for her to glean. In my eleven year old brain, this was the equivalent of John Cusack holding up the boom box in Say Anything. It was romance at its best. Boaz went above and beyond the call of the law for the woman who would eventually become his wife. Boaz and Ruth even get to be part of Jesus’ ancestral line. For years after reading this for the first time, I equated Boaz’ actions with a romantic ideal. When you met “the one” you would go above and beyond what was required for them. You wouldn’t just give them an overlooked sheaf, you would pull out a whole bunch on their behalf.
Nowadays, I still love the book of Ruth but not because I can picture it as a Meg Ryan movie. I don't consider this book to be about romance anymore. But I do see it as a love story. It is about neighbor love. The Lord commands us to love our neighbor and that means loving whomever God brings into our lives – be they husband or stranger, family or foreigner. Neighbor love casts a wide net of generosity. As a child, I always imagined myself as Ruth - a woman being swept off her feet. And in a way, I believe I am Ruth... we all are. I have been shown a completely undeserved- above-and-beyond-imagination-makes-the-movies-look-silly kind of love. The love of Jesus Christ - who saw that I was impoverished by my sin and hungry for closeness with God. And so He rescued me from that hunger with lavish love. He swept me off my feet, and now His request is simple. He wants me to take some of that amazing love He poured into my life and share it as neighbor love. He wants me to take His perfect, shining example and try to follow it the best way a sinful person like me can. He wants me to start being a Boaz.