We’re finishing a five-week series today, sharing excerpts like this one from Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement. We’re thrilled to have read through a few chapters, completed challenges, and experienced our first (in)courage book alongside you! Join us this Thursday at noon (12:00 pm CST), for our last Facebook Live video of the series with the author of this week’s chapter. For more information, click here.
“Boaz answered her, ‘Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’”
Longing for Loyalty
Janna and I weren’t best friends right away, but we moved in and out of each other’s lives based on activities and interests throughout elementary school. Basketball, Girl Scouts, and summer camp come vividly to mind. One summer, we rode our bikes all the way across town together for swimming lessons at the outdoor pool, back in a time when cell phones didn’t exist. I don’t recall ever feeling nervous about that long bike ride, maybe because we didn’t think about the evil that could be out there, but I’d like to think it was because we were together. We weren’t best friends, but we were there for one another.
For Janna and me, high school was a time of closer bonding and maturing in our friendship, largely because of shared interests — marching band, service organizations, and similar classes. Friendships take time to develop and we had more time together in high school than ever. She picked me up for early morning marching band practices and we could chat about life during that short drive. Weekends were spent rotating between the same four or five homes of close friends. We were a mixed bag of girls and boys of all grades, but I really liked that my friend since elementary school was a part of that group. Familiarity, comfort, and loyalty were already an important aspect of friendship for me, and our relationship provided all three.
While there was familiarity, there was also a little something different during our high school years. Janna’s relationship with Jesus and involvement in her church were a top priority in her life. Everything she did was impacted by her faith, including our friendship. She was the first one to challenge me about a personal relationship with Jesus. I have to admit this made me quite uncomfortable at the time. As a teenager who had grown up in one faith tradition her entire life, I felt safe and secure in my religious ways. I didn’t want to be told I might be missing something, but she was right. She was never pushy or self-righteous about faith, which is why I am confident her questions stuck with me. I was still thinking about them when I gave my life to Jesus the summer after my freshman year of college.
When I read about the relationship between Naomi and Ruth, I see a story of connection strengthened through life changes and trials. Naomi and her family, a husband and two sons, were natives of Bethlehem. A famine in their land forced the family to journey to Moab. In this foreign land, Naomi’s husband died and her sons married Moabite women. Within another ten years, both of her sons also died, leaving her with two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.
Faith was also influential in the story of Naomi and Ruth. It was Naomi’s faith in the God of Israel that Ruth saw as something worth following. It didn’t have to be that way. Naomi and her family were in Moab, Ruth’s territory, and it could have just as easily been Naomi who chose to stick with the local customs and religion. But Naomi’s faith was stronger than that and Ruth took notice. This faith would be life-changing for both of them.
These two women endured the death of loved ones, famine, and a long, difficult journey together while still in mourning. The fact that Naomi called herself “Mara,” which means bitter, probably means she was not the most joyous person to be around. Naomi’s attitude did not deter Ruth and I’m quite sure she had to grow in maturity to press on in her journey with someone in Naomi’s state of mind. And even through Naomi’s bitterness, we know Ruth saw glimpses of the older woman’s trust and faith in her God.
Hard times are never welcome, but I am mature enough to see the growth that happens in myself when I have no other choice but to cling to God. If I am paying close enough attention, I can also see the help He sends in the form of family and loyal friends.
Maybe as you read this story, your heart aches because this type of loyalty in friendship has never been a part of your life. That doesn’t have to be your story, friend, but it does require three things from you.
- Trust God. He is the one who put a craving for connection inside of you and He wants to fill that longing.
- Open your heart to the friends He brings your way. This is the hardest part, especially if you’ve been hurt in friendship before. As women enter your life through church, career, school, or other places of community, continue to ask God to reveal the close friends He intends to be a safe place for you.
- Be the loyal friend you’ve always wanted. Put your heart out there again by loving others well. I’ll be praying God shows Himself faithful in connecting your heart in community with another who shares your love for Him.
We are not loyal in friendship to receive anything in return. Loyalty in friendship is an extension of the covenant kindness shown to us by the Lord. The only reward we need is knowing God sees and is glorified through our actions. We are blessed to be a blessing.
- Think about friends you connect with regularly, but could connect on a deeper level if fear weren’t an obstacle. With that person (or those people) in mind, look for a favorite snack or dessert to make and share.
- Who could you bless on a more personal level to show that you care and are a loyal person in her life? Show up in her life the way Ruth was present in Naomi’s life.