Throwing our toys
|"Don't call me Naomi, " she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." (Ruth1:20-21)|
The rest of the book of Ruth contradicts Naomi's statements. She is not bitter in nature or character. She is not cynical and she has not given up on God. In fact, she praises Him, sees His fingerprints in the "co-incidents" of Ruth's life and she (Mara?!?), with her new grandson, is the delight of the women of Bethlehem.
So what do we do with the tough statements of vv20-21? How do we explain the bitterness and cynicism that the words convey??
I think returning to Bethlehem brought back the full impact of the losses that Naomi had been through. In that moment of loss and in the light of the theological framework of the time, Naomi - who believes that God is always in control - has to conclude that God is behind her pain and sorrow.
And so she tells it like it is - she "spits it out" - all the heartache and pain. She "throws her toys" and does not get struck by lightning.
With a clearer theology we understand that the free will we were given creates a space in which our brokenness affects us and the world around us. We understand that God is not the author of pain: Rather, pain is the result of humanity's bad choices. We also understand that God is still in control and while He is not the source of pain, He allows (and often limits) the effects of pain in our lives.
But there are times that we do not understand the pain that He has allowed in our lives. We struggle to wrap our minds and hearts around our pain, and as we struggle, we can pretend, disconnect or engage.
To pretend is to put on a fake face and pretend to be ok with what has happened. To disconnect is to avoid God and try to avoid the pain. To engage is to do what Naomi does, she blurts out her pain, she's telling God that she's not happy. She doesn't get struck by lightning and somehow in the venting she discovers that that God has not abandoned her and has not forgotten her.
Over the years I have struggled with pastoral situations I have faced - I have come to God pretty angry at times and I've thrown my fair share of toys - I've come to God disappointed and angry and sad, blurting out "I'm not happy and this is NOT cool Lord - in fact, I'm pretty mad at You right now!!!" And like a little child hammering his fists against his daddy's chest, my anger has turned to tears and my Father comforts me.