Her heart was beating like Congo drums in her ears as she stole away across the fields she had earlier helped glean. The 'thump, thump, thump,' in her gut was mixed with equal amounts of fear and excitement at what she might soon encounter. The possibility of God's promise of future kept her pushing on as she stumbled over dirt clods and splintery tufts of unharvested barley.
But finally, all the preparation of the day; the bathing, the perfuming, the anointing and indeed, the praying, had brought her to this place. For here she stood standing just inside the darkness, but outside the light of the threshing floor. From this vantage point, she was able to watch the activity of those on the night shift guarding the barley harvest without being noticed, like one who was "casing out" her coming reward. She could almost see, and all but touch, the work God was doing on her behalf. In this place of tension between the "almost" and the "not yet," she had decisions to make. She could press on, sneak in and cover herself with the hem of Boaz's' garment, or she could allow all the questions about how this could be any part of God's plan, make her turn and run. Did she have the courage and faith to press on when the plan now seemed more ridiculous than righteous? Would she question now in the cold emptiness of the night hours her very relationship with the Almighty? Or, would she take the risk of being wrong, or worse yet, being rejected by her intended bridegroom?
As for the Biblical story of Ruth; we know she pressed on. She quietly and humbly slipped in and laid patiently under the covering of the bridegroom's hem awaiting his approval of her actions. The night must have seemed to go on forever. Those minutes, that tick, tick, tick, seemed endless. Listen to the text found in Ruth 3:7b-10a:
Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet, and lay down. At midnight the man was startled, and turned over, and there, lying at his feet as a woman! He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant for you are next-of-kin." He said, May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first . . .”
That's when the real test came. After all, Ruth was wrong about her facts. Boaz was NOT her next of kin, and in fact, there was another . . . And even after the risk she had just taken, it could be, that he, not Boaz might become her husband. She had to wait once again in the tension of the "almost," but "not yet." What would her waiting be like? Would she fret over "what in the world is God doing?" Would she resort to questioning God's love for her, His acceptance of her, or if God's promises were even true? After all, she had been faithful. Ruth could have been thinking she had taken a considerable risk and did what she felt called to do, and all for what? Did God allow this confusion or create this mess? Didn't God know the facts? Why this wait? Why this moment? Why not just reward her faithfulness?
Unfortunately and fortunately, this is a story all God's people can relate to. The "almost and the not yet." The "yes, but wait" moments of God where we're challenged with laying under the hem of His garment patiently, and without question. For me, this time of waiting for God's move in February at the upcoming specially called General Conference, causes me moments of confidence and anxiety. Concerns about being misunderstood, what the reprisals might be for my stand of faith, when I can take no other. These moments of tension when faced with “over-under” type meetings, with unfair and inappropriate questions leaving me as the only vulnerable one in the room, force me to contend for my right to hold my faith position, even if it goes against the tide of those around me. It’s in these times that I suppress the desire to wiggle out from under the very plan and covering of God, which I’ve prayed for. It’s in these times that I might even want to take matters into my own hands, or even RUN! Ruth waited. She had no choice, for she was an unwelcome foreigner with no resort except to trust God. I can relate, can you?
Instead of anxiety, let us walk in the hope of our faith and the proclamation of the angels, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace...!" In the current tension of the now and not yet, we wait. Like Ruth, we have decisions to make. We can rest secure in the knowledge that God has a plan for us all, or we can wiggle, and squirm in anxiety. Let us be reminded by Ruth's story to wait patiently in the knowledge that God is in control, and may the promise of God’s future for us all, keep us faithful.