Sometimes life does not turn out as we think it will.
Anyone alive today, in 2020, can relate to this feeling.
How we deal with the unexpected says a lot about who we are, about what we value, and about our faith.
I believe that the Book of Ruth and its main protagonists – Ruth and Naomi—have something to teach us about resiliency, hope, transformation, and discernment.
I, and the other members of my local community, have been participating in a Women’s Bible Study with Sr. Teresa Tuite on the Book of Ruth. Sr. Teresa has paired the Scripture with the book by Joan Chittister, The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman’s Life. Each week, via Zoom, we gather with women from around the country to pray with our foremothers, Ruth and Naomi, and with each other. It has been a time of great grace and blessing for me and has reaffirmed my belief in the resiliency of the human spirit amidst the difficulties of life.
Ruth was a young Moabite woman, married to her beloved and looking forward to bearing children and watching her family grow and prosper. However, it was not to be. Her husband died of an illness that also took the lives of his father and brother. Ruth was left a widow, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her sister-in-law Orpah. Without their husbands, father, or sons, they were without any means of support and chose to return to Bethlehem.
Each woman made a different choice. Naomi chose to return to her people in Bethlehem where she knew she would be welcomed and cared for. Orpah chose to return to her family’s home with hopes to marry again. Ruth chose to remain faithful to Naomi and return with her to Bethlehem. Ruth’s famous declaration is an inspiration to many of us to this day, “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I shall live. Wherever you die, I shall die.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth undergoes a radical transformation when she becomes a widow. By choosing to become an immigrant in a land she does not know, she must trust in a God she is just getting to know through Naomi and must rely on her faith. Ruth not only accepts the circumstances of her life, but she allows these circumstances to change her from the inside out by embracing her new life, and in doing so, becomes a new person – she is transformed.
A moment of transformation comes when something inside us shifts and, despite ourselves, we find that we are no longer the person we used to be. Like Naomi and Ruth, we find not only that life has changed but that we have changed. Then we know with certainty that God is working in our soul.
Such transformations have happened among many of the women in our Bible Study group. Each has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways. Some have experienced the death of one or more loved ones, some have welcomed new grandchildren, a few have lost jobs and all of us have had plans changed beyond our control. Yet, as we have gathered each week to journey with Ruth and Naomi, we have discovered once again our God, who is faithful and present to us all in all. God is revealed to us in the face and the words of another, in the tears and laughter of a new baby, and in the rise of the sun each day.
Such transformations also happen in the women who choose to answer God’s call to enter religious life. They must leave home, take on a new identity, and join with others on a journey into the unknown. Religious life is changing around us and yet we and those who join us are willing to trust–to trust in God and to trust in each other as we walk this journey together.
To embrace that transformation takes discernment and an intentional choice. Transformation does not just happen – it is an active process. It takes deep reflection, prayer, and the decision to choose that which is placed before us. What about you? Are you willing to be transformed into a new creation?