Monday, October 22, 2012

The vulnerability of Ruth

The story of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 2-3 was always a little strange to me. However, I've gleaned some insight into the story that opens it up in a very interesting way.

So, remember how after her husband died Ruth chose to live with her mother-in-law Naomi? Naomi saw that her kinsman Boaz had noticed Ruth, and came up with a risky plan for Ruth to get him to marry her:
Ruth enteres into the threshing barn of the sleeping Boaz in the dead of night and by so doing, places herself in a hopelessly compromising situation with hazard to her reputation and life. She is foreign-born with no friend or protector, and no alibi, no story to tell a public, if Boaz simply wakes up and exploits the situation for his own advantage. 
The marvel, of course, is that the sole immediate purpose of Ruth's actions is to make herself vulnerable. Vulnerability is her end. Her only objective is to make herself as exposed and defenseless as she can, so she can say to Boaz, "I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant." In other words, here am I, yours to protect or destroy. I place myself in your hands. I hold nothing back, so you may know my trust is without bounds. But of course, in making herself so vulnerable, she reveals the exquisite beauty of her own character (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, by Terryl and Fiona Givens. Kindle edition Loc 510).
Ruth made herself vulnerable and was blessed for it. Ultimately, I see this as a model to follow in my relationship with God. He is one who I can trust completely and to whom my vulnerability is only ever rewarded. For Ruth, and for me, "only by opening [herself/myself] to the possibility of paramount harm... [does she/do I] serve as vehicles of His grace. That vulnerability is both the price of the power to save, and that which saves" (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, by Terryl and Fiona Givens. Kindle edition Loc 537) 

In putting my trust in God I take on trials and difficulties, pain and sorrow, but I know they will enable me serve as the hands of the Lord and change the experience of my life, expanding my capacity for joy and fulfillment.

The more that I learn about vulnerability the more I see how crucial it is to the human experience. I have posted about the vulnerability of God and my discoveries about own vulnerability and now, from here I'd like to tie all I've learned to the lives of the young single women that I've had the opportunity to observe, and the way that we are all required to make ourselves vulnerable in our search for a companion.

I have many friends with beautiful spirits, righteous desires, and a fierce loyalty to Christ and His gospel, and it has been difficult to watch so many of them open themselves up to the opposite sex, much in the way that Ruth did to Boaz, hoping just to be seen and appreciated for the "exquisite beauty" of character that is there, only to have that trust "exploited" or simply disregarded.

It is one of the most difficult parts of being single. Each time we meet someone who seems worthy of our love, we hope, against experience, that this time our trust will be rewarded. When instead we experience the pain of rejection, we have to fight not to hold back pieces of who we are, flounder in doubt about our worth, and question why we make ourselves vulnerable in the first place.

Disappointed and disparaged, in so many ways this becomes the type of test of faith that Terryl Givens defined as "a test of our own willful decision to choose faith over doubt" (from an article by Boyd Peterson) and to continue to believe the promise that if we love and serve God we will be granted the deepest desires of our hearts.

I have many good and lovely girlfriends in my life. They each deserve to hear the words of affirmation and appreciate that Boaz spoke to Ruth. However, I hope that they each see the pain and difficulties of this time in our life as part of what will ultimately serve "the larger purposes of God's master plan, which is to maximize the human capacity for joy, or in other words 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man'  (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, by Terryl and Fiona Givens. Kindle edition Loc 571) .  God can expand our capacity for joy through whatever we experience. Years of pain give meaning to the dawn of joy:
God’s power rests not on totalizing omnipotence, but on the ability to alchemize suffering, tragedy, and loss, into wisdom, understanding, and even joy...In Mormonism, it is joy consciously, not effortlessly, chosen that is godlike (from Mormonism and the Dilemma of Tragedy by Rachael).

I hope that I, along with my dear single friends, can continue to make that difficult choice of vulnerability, pain and joy.

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