Hungry for a Blessing: Thanksgiving Throwback Thursday

The following reflection comes from a sermon entitled, “Hungry for Blessing” based on Deuteronomy 8:7-18 first delivered on November 25, 1992 at Zion Presbyterian Church in Fosterburg, Illinois.

Thanksgiving begins with hunger.

We usually don’t think of it this way, but it’s true.

Usually, we think of Thanksgiving in terms of abundance. We celebrate on this special day the goodness of God for the bountiful earth that brings forth fruits and vegetables in their season. We count our blessings as the table is piled high with turkey and all the trimmings, family and friends; food and football mingle together like giblets and gravy. It is the abundance of life — the good harvest, the horn of plenty that we think of and celebrate at Thanksgiving.

And yet, Thanksgiving begins with hunger, not with blessings. This was true as the Pilgrims gathered at Plymouth. They had only planted three crops in the spring of 1621: English peas, barley, and maize. However, as one person recorded, “our peas were not worth gathering — the sun had parched them — and the barley was described as “indifferent”. Nothing much to it. The only crop that made it was the twenty acres of maize which the natives had taught them to plant using herring as fertilizer. This maize, or corn, was not like the Burris brand quality hybrids we’ve grown to know and love. Instead, this maize was probably about 2 or 3 inches long with kernels of varying quality. Imagine preparing for a feast with only corn about the size of those little Chinese corn thingies you get at salad bars and you’ve just about pictured how it was when the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans over for the Thanksgiving feast that first winter. Some feast, huh?

Still, they gathered together and gave thanks. The Pilgrims knew what it was like to face hunger — to be physically hungry. When I say, though, that Thanksgiving begins with hunger I mean more than physical hunger. I’m also talking about the kind of hunger Jesus mentions when he says, “Blessed are those who hunger…who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Thanksgiving begins as we become aware of the hunger within us, the restlessness that pushes us forward in faith and life. It is out of this hunger that we come together to worship, to serve God and creation. It is this hunger for righteousness, for right relationships with God, with each other, and with ourselves, that motivates us to give thanks for what we have even as we hunger for more.

Without this hunger, God’s blessing becomes irrelevant. If we are not aware of the hunger inside us, we are not likely to come to the table of God’s grace. Instead, we can become self-satisfied, complacent, like the man or woman stuffed for a huge Thanksgiving meal who plops down in an easy chair, turns on a football game and tunes out all that’s going on around them.

It is not abundance, but hunger moves us to experience God’s blessing in a life of thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag Indians were the tribe that met and befriended the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth. Their chief at that time was a man named Massasoit. He was a peaceful man but his sons had many wars with the Pilgrims.

A Grief Observed

Homesickness

 Yesterday my therapist said it was time to grieve the loss of my marital separation. “You don’t have to give up hope for future reconciliation,” he said, “but you need to deal with your present depression caused at least in part by grief.”

He was responding to my report that I have been oversleeping, falling behind on my writing, and that I generally lack motivation to do much of anything. I have felt “dopey” but my psychiatrist tells me it isn’t a medication issue. While I have gone up on meds, I’m still on modest doses and given the anti-depressants and mood stabilizers I take, I should be experiencing chemical balance.

But I feel lousy. So, what’s going on? In all likelihood, it is the weight of grief compounded by years of a troubled marriage and almost three years now of separation. So, what do I do?

My first thought was to go to a grief group. My therapist pointed out, however, that while I was very likely going through significant grief, members of such groups might be reluctant to receive me since they are dealing with losses due to death, a different sort of grief.

He then suggest a divorce care group. I cringed. I am still very Biblically unsettled about divorce, and I also don’t trust my boundaries to seek the companionship of an emotionally supportive and vulnerable partner — which would be a violation of my marital covenant.

Given my reluctance and knowing my penchant for reading and thinking my way to new understanding and behavior, my therapist recommended I find some good books on grief and grieving. I went to the library yesterday and found two — On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler and The Truth About Grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg.

I started On Grief and Grieving and found this compelling quote on anticipatory grief:

The limbo of loss is in itself a loss to be mourned. Uncertainty can be an excruciating existence. It is the loss of life, going nowhere or going nowhere slowly without knowing if there will be a loss.

As I write this, I find myself facing a loss that was in part of my own making, but now beyond my ability to repair. For now I linger in limbo, slowly going nowhere, lifeless, weighed down by sorrow and regret. I have a grief to be observed — not physical death, but the death of a relationship I am both thankful to have experienced and am sad to lose.

A Joyful Noise: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth… (Psalm 98:4a, KJV)

Having four children, I got to hear a great deal of noise – joyful and otherwise. I would like to say the noise was a blessing, and it was a blessing, of course, but too often I didn’t experience it as such. While I realize any parent can grow weary of noise no matter how exuberant, I went through periods with my illness where almost any noise could be excruciatingly agitating. This made it difficult to share in many happy moments with my family as I sought out corners of dark silence to hide rather than join in the fun.

I don’t know if this is specifically a feature of my illness or part of my character, but I greatly struggle with any noise that comes randomly, chaotically, spontaneously. I can listen to a familiar (sometimes rocking) song at top volume through my ear buds, but if I enter a room where there is loud conversation, laughter, and unfamiliar sounds, I soon become exhausted.

Though I rarely experience noise as a blessing, I did eventually learn to endure the sound (without much complaint) for the sake of the joy that comes when family members rejoice together. It has helped tremendously to have a wife so good at encouraging our children to delight in their discoveries of God’s world and God’s ways. This removed the pressure from me to be a “cheerleader.” Instead, I became the quiet encourager who gently (and lovingly, I hope) helped them appreciate how joy comes in many forms, in all circumstances (no matter how much or how little noise we make).

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

Voices, Depressed Friends, God, Dark Nights of the Soul, Pet Assisted Therapy: Mental Health Monday

The Voice in My Head” (Crashing Trees)

This morning I woke up to a voice in my head telling me to shoot myself.  It was intense and real.  It was frickin’ scary.  It was unnerving.  I just can’t believe it.  The voice was so loud and strong, and I jumped out of bed telling it to shut the f-up.  My whole body was shaking and I felt angry.  Desi called right after I got out of bed and I got to process it with him.  He’s scared.  Hell, I’m scared.

Thank goodness for my depressed friends” (Not always smiling)

…I love John, and all my depressed friends. We can be more honest with each other than we can be with anyone else, even people who love us. Chances are, most others would be quite uncomfortable hearing the above conversation. John and I aren’t. We know how close we’ve come. And we know that, no matter what we do, the wars in our heads are still there. On good days, we can manage them. But we have not been able to get rid of them.

God, Jesus, and Bipolar Disorder” (5 Million Unheard)

God has taken me from the ashes and made me stronger and wiser. Like the Phoenix that stains the skin on my left arm, representing my little baby girl JanePaisley. I now know that God always has my back, and that He was with me all along, hidden in plain sight. I know that trusting God isn’t always about blind faith. I know that God, Jesus, me, bipolar disorder can all live symbiotically. Having control of me again is nice. Knowing that God saved me from myself, gave me strength to fight my ass off, made me brave, and gave me courage to walk through hell, is more valuable to me than any money or material possession. The ability to live after being emotionally lifeless is more than I could ever repay. And most valuable of all is the ability to live fearless of the demons inside of me because God forever has my back.

An Absence of Sun” (Brenda’s Babble & Brew)

People speak of the “dark night of the soul”. It is real. It is overwhelming. You wake up to it and wonder where the door is. Every step is barefoot on glass that has no shine. The cup sits at your left hand, glimmering with its burden, and you beg for it to be taken away. But of course, it isn’t. You have filled it yourself. Every sin you have ever committed – even those you’ve forgotten – swirls in its dregs. Every regret, every sorrow, every wrong done to others – they’re all part of that elixir. You stare at it, terrified to drink. But you will. Inevitably, you will.

I Have a New Man in My Life. His Name is Chandler. Pet Assisted Therapy” (My Wonderland)

I have a new man in my life. His name is Chandler; he is 8weeks old and absolutely adorable. Introducing him makes me remember kindergarten and doing ‘show and tell’. He is meant to make me more accountable and responsible. Pets are also good for therapy (Animal Assisted Therapy), but all of that doesn’t matter, he is beautiful. My mum has been trying to make me get a dog for weeks, after last night I impulsively accepted a puppy off my boss’ friend, probably the best decision I’ve made in months. Here’s to getting better. He even made me stay home and not drink on a Saturday night because I didn’t want to leave him home alone.

Out of this World: Throwback Thursday

What kind of a King is Christ? Pilate asked Jesus this question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” In other words, “Do you consider yourself a political leader?” If so, Pilate could charge Jesus with sedition, plotting to over throw the Roman government.

Jesus gives Pilate one of his famous non-responses, reflecting the question back, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me? Pilate is flustered “Am I a Jew?” He had tried to intimidate Jesus with a probing question, but Jesus stood firm and put Pilate off guard. Catching a second wind, Pilate adds an open-ended question to Jesus “What have you done?”

Jesus says, “My Kingship is not of this world.” If I were a political leader, I could have led a revolution. The people would fight for me, not turn me into the authorities.

Pilate responds, “So, you are a King.”

Jesus says, “You say this. All I say is I was born to reveal the truth. All who hear the truth, hear me.”

Jesus was not a political revolutionary. If he were, he would have helped his people Israel over throw the Roman government. He had stirred up their emotions, then pride.   Most importantly, he had helped them discover the Spirit of God within and among them. If Jesus were a political revolutionary he would have restored Israel to power. But he didn’t.

Instead, Jesus says, “My Kingship is not of this world.” The power of God in Christ is different than the power we often find in the world. It is not the sort of power that intimidates others into submission. It is not the sort of power that pushes people around, abuses privileges, establishes itself and then feeds off others. The power of God in Christ is the power to serve, to inspire, to love. This power builds us up. It is empowering. It helps us do things we could not have done on our own.

Those of us in positions of authority do well to notice how Christ exercises his authority. He does not lord it over others. He does not make a big show of it. He does not wallow in its privileges or use it as a vehicle to abuse those who trust him. Instead, he uses it to better serve, to share with more people the good news of God’s love.

Clarence Jordan was a Baptist preacher and Bible scholar in the 1930’s who left a seminar teaching position to start a farm in South Georgia. It became known as Koinonia, the Greek word for “fellowship.” At Koinonia, everyone was treated equally, no matter the color of their skin. Jordan created a scandal by paying black farm hands a decent wage. He even had the audacity to share lunch with them at the same table.

One evening, a group of white men in dark suits knocked on his door. He answered it. Mr. Jordan, One man spoke, “We’ll get right to the point. We’re part of the Citizens Council, and we’re here to tell you we don’t let the sun go down of a man who eats with a nigger.”

Jordan looked down. His face lost all expression. When he looked up again, he was smiling.

He shook the man’s hand and said,

“My name is Clarence Jordan. I’m a Southern Baptist preacher and I always wanted to meet the man who had power over the sun.”

Jordan kept on living and working with people of all colors. He didn’t let the power of intimidation rule, but the power of love. The power of God in Christ.

This power is ours.

The power of love is out of this world, but it also lives in us when when we are in Christ.

The Faith of Hannah : Throwback Thursday

The following reflection is taken from a sermon entitled, “The Faith of Hannah,” based on 1 Samuel 1.4-20, first delivered on November 13, 1994 at Cochranton Presbyterian Church.

The faith of Hannah inspires us to give back to God from what God has given us.

One of the most painful experiences women (and men) can face is their inability to have children. It is a great mystery to me why some couples who would be loving parents are unable to conceive, while each year thousands of children are born, unwanted by their birth parents.   I don’t know why.

In the days of Hannah, women who were barren were ignored, ridiculed, often cast aside. They were considered cursed by God for some secret sin. Hannah was made to feel less than human, unloved by God.

Hannah knew God loved her. Still, she struggles. She prays for a child. Nothing happens. Her husband, Elkanah, pays a double offering at the temple. Nothing happens. Hannah endures the taunts and jeers of other women. Nothing happens. In her struggle, she becomes terribly sad. She finds it difficult to eat or sleep.

In desperation, Hannah goes to the temple and calls on the God she knows as loving and powerful, able to do great things. She pours out her heart,

“O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, remember me…and I will remember you. I will dedicate my child to your service.”

The Bible tells us that God hears her prayer and answers it. Hannah conceives and gives birth to a son, Samuel. Can you imagine her joy?

When Alice and I discovered we were expecting our first child, we felt incredibly blessed. Those 9 months of waiting seemed like an eternity. The week of our due date, Alice and I had been “power walking” 3 times a day at the mall, trying to induce labor. We were quite a sight – barreling past the senior citizens – one very pregnant woman and one over-eager husband, clocking each contraction with a stopwatch.

Sarah was born (3 days late, according to my stopwatch) and our blessing was multiplied, beyond belief. Sarah.

Can you imagine how Hannah must have felt? To be blessed with a child after such a long wait, all her tears, all her pain, her desperate prayers become one bouncing bundle of joy. Samuel.

Then, her joy, her blessedness is tested. Remember her promise to God? “If you give me a son, Lord, I will dedicate him to your service, as a priest.” In those days, priests were raised within the temple walls, separated from their parents. How on earth, after all that she has been through, after such a long wait, could Hannah give up her child?

We don’t know how she does it, but she does. She follows through on her promise to God. She says to her husband, “as soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever.” And she does just that.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us how old Samuel was when he was weaned.   A thought flashed in my mind this week that Samuel might have been the first child in history to be weaned and graduate from college on the same day. Maybe Hannah should become the patron saint for La Leche League.

No, the Bible does say that Samuel was young. He is still a child when Hannah offers him to God, saying, “…as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”

Let’s pray…

Lord God, you’ve given us so much. In Jesus Christ, you gave us your own Son, that we might enjoy life, abundant and eternal. Inspire us with your Spirit of giving, Lord, as you inspired Hannah. Help us to share with you the joy of giving, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

.

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Inconsistency: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

Oh, that my ways were steadfast

in obeying your decrees! (Psalm 119:5)

One of my greatest frustrations living with bipolar disorder is how difficult it is to be consistent. This has caused me much anxiety and put tremendous strain on my relationships – particularly within my family. When I’ve felt up to it, I’ve made big plans to do things with the family, but then I crash and fail to follow through with them. When I’ve been depressed, I’ve let Alice make nearly all parenting decisions. Yet when I came back around, I’ve tried to assert my authority and made a mess of things.

At key moments I’ve been practically cruel in my inconsistency. One example was when we adopted our youngest child, Hannah. Alice wanted to provide her the nutritional and emotional benefits of nursing. Yet, I insisted this was selfish, that I should be included in the bonding experience of feeding her. Much to her dismay, Alice relented to my strong will. True to form, I didn’t step up to the plate, and Alice wound up feeding Hannah from a bottle herself (with some help from our oldest daughters and grandparents).

Consistency is one of God’s great character traits. When we become more like the LORD, we are bound to become more steadfast – particularly in our love. The ups and downs of our mood disorders don’t go away, but they no longer command so much of our attention.

I like how we call what we do with faith, “practicing,” The implication is we never fully perform it or perfect it in this life. The more we practice true faith, however, the more we consistently obey God’s Word and Way.

I still have a long way to go when it comes to consistency. I’m still practicing what I believe is best, yet so often I fall short. When I do, I pray for forgiveness and pick up the next day and try again.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

Opening Up, Failing, Psychiatric Hospitals, Invisibility, Fear: Mental Health Monday

Just When Is It Okay to Open Up????”  (The Jet Life Chronicles)

Over the past three months I’ve gotten a lot of offers from people out there who said if I need to talk, then they are there. Let me tell you as someone who is always living in recovery, this is extremely, and very difficult. The main reason, I feel like, is that as someone with a serious mental illness and who struggles with it very often, you have to decipher what is a character problem, and what is a problem that has to do with the symptoms of your diagnosis. This is a hidden thing that a lot of people don’t get from those who actually suffer and are prisoners of their symptoms, even those that are the family members, spouses, friends, or coworkers would not see, and even those in the medical model won’t even pay attention to on many occasions. There are a lot of instances where you just don’t know what you are feeling at the moment. Not to mention, that situations in where your flaws as a person are exploited can even trigger symptoms.

Life in the Ana Phase: Living with Anorexia/EDNOS” (Some People Live More in 20 Years…)

Shut up, you tell yourself vehemently as you shove your plate away. You go upstairs. You shut the door and walk to the mirror.

You didn’t eat. You had to and you didn’t. Every inch of your failures pile up inside you, bursting at the seams of your body. You are not pounds. You are not sizes. You are a measurement of failure, and you just gained some more.

My Weekend in a Psychiatric Hospital for Research” (Dessa J)

Last Friday I went to my local hospital emergency room and told the nurse that I was contemplating suicide and felt in was a danger to myself. That was all it took for her to admit me. The nurse did not physically examine me except for taking my temperature and blood pressure. For 6 hours I was kept waiting. I had to wait for them to see if the psychiatric facility next door would accept me. At 12 am they finally did.

I was wheeled over to a building with barbed wires and was escorted by a police officer with a lot of keys. Eventually after going through three security gates I was taken to a building, which looked like an old classroom turned into a hospital ward.

I was wheeled into a tiny room where my belongings were taken and looked through. I was bombarded with paperwork after paperwork with questions asking about my mood.

This process was a little bit difficult because my nurses and care givers had heavy accents and didn’t speak English too clearly. I managed and after the paperwork I was escorted to my room.

The Invisible Girl, searchlights and conflicts” (The Time Puddle)

When I was nine years old – still raw from the trauma I had suffered only two years before – I was sent to boarding school. It was not a pleasant experience, and the emotional concrete began to be laid inside me almost as soon as I had unpacked.

Girls are mean creatures – cold and unforgiving and utterly merciless. Although the greatest crimes against me have all been committed by men, I am more inclined to forgive their gender. I can appreciate the diversity among them far easier than I would apply the same gentle eye to that supposed gentler sex.

I remember the poor diplomacy I would stutter in my attempt to make friends with the other girls. I had been forged in fear, and as a result I burned every contact to ashes.

I could not understand the complex body language they used so effortlessly to mark the safe zones around them. I could not understand why something said on one day was funny, and the next day was not. Most of all, I could not understand how to react when they turned on me. I could not understand the question, let alone create an answer that would make them – please – leave me alone.

What do you fear, my lady?”  (Random Thoughts from the Road Less Traveled)

When I look back at myself from June of 2003 to September of 2007, it is clear that my decisions were all made with desperate calculation to escape the cage that was closing in on me.  I was searching frantically for something that would save me from the force within my mind that was hunting me down, wearing away at my defenses, and driving me into captivity and darkness.

I had spent four years from the time I returned home from war working hard to appear as though everything was normal.  It was a strange sort of double life.  I was terrified of anyone finding out the reality of what was going on in my mind, so I put on an amazing show of normalcy and productivity by keeping as busy as possible.   I was working full time as a nurse and also a full time student majoring in Secondary Education.  While I was occupied, it was easier to suppress the dragon that stalked my thoughts.  However, it was mentally, emotionally and physically draining, and I was headed for a breakdown.

Top Story Songs for 2014: “Raised by Wolves” — U2

 I’ve been listening to U2 since I was knee-high to a leprechaun. I vividly recall my first exposure — marching along with my dorm buddies to the cries of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”  While I haven’t followed them closely through their mega-stardom, I remain intrigued by their work and was quite delighted to welcome the release of their new album, “Songs of Innocence.”

I was particularly pleased with the deep spiritual thirst and longing expressed in many of the songs. The best example of this, I believe, is the song “Raised by Wolves.” The depiction of the desperate state of human depravity, the crisis of faith, and the longing to disappear are vividly presented in passionate poetry with a harsh back-beat setting the tone.

“Raised by Wolves” is a great example of what gifted rockers at any age can do when inspired well.

Face down on a broken street
There’s a man in the corner in a pool of misery
I’m in a white van as a red sea covers the ground
Metal crash I can’t tell what it is
But I take a look and now I’m sorry I did.
5:30 on a Friday night 33 good people cut downI don’t believe anymore
I don’t believe anymore

Face down on a pillow of shame
There are some girls with a needle trying to spell my name
My body’s not a canvas
My body’s now a toilet wall

I don’t believe anymore
I don’t believe anymore

Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
Raised by wolves
We were raised by wolves
Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
If I open my eyes,
You disappear

I don’t believe anymore
I don’t believe anymore

Boy sees his father crushed under the weight
Of a cross in a passion where the passion is hate.
Blue mink Ford, I’m gonna detonate and you’re dead
Blood in the house,
Blood on the street
The worst things in the world are justified by belief
Registration 1385-WZ

I don’t believe anymore
I don’t believe anymore

Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
Raised by wolves
We were raised by wolves
Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
If I open my eyes,
You disappear

The Courage of Ruth: Throwback Thursday

The following reflection is taken from a sermon entitled “The Courage of Ruth” based on Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 first delivered November 06, 1994 at Cochranton Presbyterian Church.

Ruth is a woman with great courage. When faced with a challenge, she doesn’t run and hide. She stands up for herself and for her family.

At an early age, Ruth suffers the loss of her husband. She is faced with a decision. The logical choice would be to go back to her family home, if they would have her. She is still young; she might hope to marry again one day.

Instead, Ruth decides to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, She expresses great love and loyalty, saying, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Having chosen to remain with Naomi, Ruth is faced with the hard truth that life has little to offer two widows. Being a widow in Ruth’s day meant being extremely vulnerable, unable to work, unable to collect insurance, at the mercy of others.

Again, Ruth shows great courage. When faced with limited options, she doesn’t grumble, but works hard with the hand she’s dealt. Ruth goes into the fields and gathers the remains of the harvest.

When she tells Naomi what she has done, Naomi tells her the owner of the fields is a relative, Boaz. In the tradition of the day, when a woman was widowed, often the nearest relative of her husband offered to marry her and provide for her needs. Naomi advises Ruth to visit Boaz, to see if he might be willing to fulfill this obligation.

Ruth does just this. At night, she gets dressed up and goes to visit Boaz at the threshing floor. Doing this, she risks a social scandal, even death by stoning. Women were expected not to take such bold steps with a man, to be so assertive. They were to sit back, hide their faces and let the man take the first move. Ruth ignores this social etiquette and goes. Providing for her family is more important to her than her reputation.

Boaz is startled when he finds her there. “Who are you?” He asks. Ruth tells him her story.

Rather than being put off by Ruth’s assertiveness, Boaz is impressed by the loyalty she has demonstrated in her friendship with Naomi. This loyalty, this courage attracts Boaz and prompts him to agree with her plan. He tells her to return to Naomi while he makes the necessary arrangements for marriage.

Thanks to the loyalty of Ruth, thanks to her willingness to take risks, both her needs and the needs of Naomi are met.

The courage of Ruth inspires us today to take risks. Women of faith have often been discouraged from putting their God-given talents to use. You have been told that men are to be the leaders, the heads of household. You are to sit back, let the men take the initiative and, if need be, you can mop up his mess when he’s finished.

In some cases, this works. In many others, it doesn’t. By narrowly defining roles within a marriage, we can lose sight of the “sacred partnership” God intends for us. We drift away from each other, failing to work together for the good of the family. Husbands can become violent tyrants; wives can become paralyzed with passivity.

Social expectations impact our sinful nature. For men, the root sin becomes “hubris,” or pride. We can become arrogant blow-hards who bark commands, who brag about our prowess, who talk a big talk. We can overestimate our talent, over-commit ourselves and need someone, often a woman, to come along and bail us out, while we take the credit.

For women, however, the root sin becomes, “hiding.” You are taught to hide your talent, work behind the scenes, and not take credit for what you’ve achieved. Follow along, never taking the lead, never letting your God-given talents find expression.

In some cases, this sin of hiding filters into relationships. While I was doing pastoral training at a women’s prison, I was surprised to find that almost 1/2 of the women were in prison for crimes of complicity. In other words, their crime was to assist someone else, usually a boyfriend or husband, commit a crime. They would drive, or help hide, or cover-up evidence. Some of these women were very intelligent, with a lot to offer, but early on, they fell into their allotted social roles of connecting with a man and letting him take charge.

Ruth demonstrates how to come out of hiding. She doesn’t seem concerned by what people might think. Though she is a victim of tragedy, she doesn’t think of herself in this way. She does not become overwhelmed by her grief, but shows the strength and courage to move on.

Ruth is a survivor, who remains true to her commitments, even when she has plenty of reason to let go. The story of Ruth can inspire women and men of faith today. Recognize the strength available in the spirit of Christ to care for yourself and your family. Let the Spirit move you to share your talents for your own good and for the good of the community of faith. Don’t sit back until someone else takes the lead, until someone else invites you to follow along where you may not be meant to go. Take the lead, show the courage of Ruth to go where the Spirit leads you, on your own path, following no one but God.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ruth and Boaz

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ruth and Boaz