When you grow up with a name like Ruth, you tend to get biblical references thrown at you like baseballs. It is, after all, one of only two female names titling books of the Bible (the other being Esther). It’s also not the most common name, so it stands out from the bunch. (Though it was the third most popular name given to females born in 1893!) So, somewhere in the vast sea of today’s Emilys and Isabellas and Olivias, when the name Ruth is uttered, it sparks one of two reactions: 1) “My great-grandmother is named Ruth, too!”, or 2) “Like Ruth from the Bible, right?”
As a single girl in my thirties, however, the second reaction has morphed into a stifled giggle followed by, “I bet you’re still waiting for your Boaz!”
Insert major eye roll by yours truly.
If you’re unfamiliar with the biblical story, here’s a brief synopsis (or IRV: International Rutherford Version). Ruth is a nice gal who married a nice guy named Mahlon. The poor fellow somehow dies and Ruth is left a widow. Her kind heart compels her to stay and care for her mother-in-law, Naomi. But Naomi will have none of it! She tells Ruth to ride a train across Europe, experience new things, become a Starbucks barista. But as much as Ruth loves her vanilla lattes, she commits herself to her mother-in-law in what has become — because of its beauty and passion — one of my favorite passages of the entire Bible:
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Considering the plethora of mother-in-law jokes out there, I doubt anyone in today’s generation would have this sheer commitment to their late spouse’s mom. But Ruth was a different bird, a bit quirky. She stood by her word and cared for ol’ Naomi, even trekking out to the barley fields each day to bring back dinner — mainly the “leftovers” that had fallen from the harvest.
Enter Boaz — the owner of the field, and a guy I like to think was tall, strapping, had a sexy, scruffy beard and enjoyed Seinfeld reruns and mint chocolate chip ice cream. He hears of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and is touched. He is kind, telling his workers to throw the girl a bone, or in this case an extra bushel or two of barley.
Eventually, through a series of weird customs involving uncovering feet and spreading cloaks — (don’t ask) — Boaz and Ruth are married. The romance of it all might get lost in the ancient Hebrew, but I like to think they were a fun couple that enjoyed a natural friendship, constant laughter and, of course, passionate romance.
And so ends the tale of Ruth and Boaz as we know it. A nice book, a sweet story. So when family, friends and passers-by tell me I’m “waiting for my Boaz,” it’s not all bad. I would love my own Boaz (though I’d choose to affectionately call him Bo, or Beau if I’m feeling fancy).
But let’s not forget the whole story: Ruth was first alone, then married, then widowed, then alone again… and THEN she found Boaz. So for the sake of my sanity and dwindling patience, I’d like to skip over a few steps and get this ball rolling.
In 2012, the lead-up to marriage is vastly different than it was in Old Testament days. The concept of dating didn’t exist back then. It was all more contractual, more arranged, more trading two goats and a wagon for a happily ever after. So in today’s world of dating, eHarmony, professional matchmaking, casual sex, and premarital cohabitation and pregnancies, you can imagine things are complicated. And the results? Even more complicated.
I read this quote a while ago and can’t for the life of me figure out who wrote it. Google has forsaken me! Perhaps it will forever go down as yet another unattributed masterpiece, but I must share it anyway.
“To all the girls who are in a hurry to have a boyfriend or get married, a piece of biblical advice: ‘Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz.’ While you are waiting on YOUR Boaz, don’t settle for any of his relatives; Broke-az, Po-az, Lying-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az, and especially his third cousin Beatinyo-az. Wait on your Boaz and make sure he respects Yoaz.”
Oh, no he didn’t!
So, I guess I can safely say that I am, indeed, waiting for my Boaz (as cheesy as that may sound). I’m just chillin’ with my family, gleaning the fields of Panera and Baja Fresh, waiting for some kind soul to discover that I’m a great catch, despite my propensity to blabber on the Internet and eat my weight in Flipz chocolate covered pretzels.
Here’s to the journey. Here’s to the waiting. Here’s to the last chapter, yet to be written.
Image credit: William Blake, 1795: A depiction of Naomi entreating Ruth and her sister Orpah to return to the land of Moab