At Healdsburg Community Church, we presented the four chapters of Ruth as 4 monologues in four weeks.
Here is Chapter One from the perspective of Naomi:
It’s awkward when a name doesn’t fit a person. Have you ever seen an ugly baby? And let’s be honest here, there are such things as ugly babies. And then you
find out they named it “Beauty” or “Belle” which I understand means “beauty”. So you try to keep a straight face, but it’s not always easy.
I know what it’s like to not have a name fit. My name is Naomi, and I will tell you how my name came to seem so very wrong. But first I’ll tell you about some
other names that are important in my story.
You also should know, I lived thousands of years ago, in the years after Joshua brought God’s people out of Egypt and to the land of our father Abraham. My
husband’s name was “Elimelech”, which means “God is King”. My husband’s name was fitting because we lived at a time when Israel had no king, but God. But many
people did not acknowledge God or his laws, but instead did what was right in their own eyes. Most in the land were morally blind. But Elimelech was a good man in bad times.
We lived in Bethlehem, a city that at the time seemed misnamed. You see, Bethlehem means “house of bread” and this was a time of famine. The barren fields, the hunger, drove us from our home to a foreign land, the land of Moab, where there was food, and work.
We took our two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. My son’s names proved unfortunate, and over the years I wondered whether some of the grief that we experienced was because we named our sons too well. I know that sounds silly and irrational, but part of me always believed that. You see, “Mahlon” which can mean “crown” because we thought he would be our crowning joy. But Mahlon can also mean “ill or weak”. And “Kilion” can mean “Finish”, because I thought he would make our family complete. But it can also mean weak. We hadn’t thought much of the darker meanings of our children’s names, but as children, of course, their playmates did and teased them.
My life changed greatly in Moab. My husband passed away, but I still had my boys. My sons grew up there, and began to work, they were farmers like their father. And in Moab, they were both married. That was hard for me, because I would have liked for them to have married among our people. But they did find such wonderful wives in Orphah and Ruth. We made do, the five of us. But then my sons… They were weak. They died as my husband did in a foreign land.
So there we were. Three widows alone. But then there came good news from my homeland. The Lord had visited my land with bounty, there was rain again, the famine
had ended. I knew I needed to go back home. When I told Orphah and Ruth, they said they would go back with me.
We packed, and started on the road. But it seemed wrong to be taking these girls from their home. I said Orphah, Ruth, this isn’t right. You should go to your
own homes. I can’t promise that there would be anything for them in my homeland. I couldn’t promise there would be work. But they still insisted they
wanted to be with me.
I had to be blunt. I was not going to be able to bear children again to be their husbands. Even if I married again and there was a Abraham and Sarah miracle, there was no way they could wait till they were old enough to marry and then they’d be my age. When I put it that way, they didn’t seem to know whether to laugh or cry.
But then Orhrah did cry and said I was right. She said she would miss me, but she would go home to her family. I said I would miss her, and she left.
But Ruth wouldn’t leave. I told her to go, but she wouldn’t. She then spoke words I’ll always cherish. She said, “Don’t ask me to leave again. I will never
leave you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. Your people will be my people. Your God, my God. I will die where you die and I will be buried where you are buried. May God punish me if I ever let anything separate us.”
I looked in her eyes and knew she meant every word she said. Because Ruth, like so few people in this world, lives up to her name. Her name means, “Friend”.
So Ruth returned with me to Bethlehem. I had left Bethlehem with a husband, sons, some land and a little money. Back then I had my youth, my beauty. I said before how I hated it when a name doesn’t fit.
When I returned to Bethlehem, I heard people saying to each other, “Is this Naomi?” I could tell that even my kinsmen didn’t recognize me. You see, “Naomi” means “lovely”. My name might have fit at one time, but it didn’t anymore.
I said, call me “Mara”, which means bitter, because God had dealt bitterly with me. I had lost everything I once had. I felt God had taken it all away. Maybe
some of you feel the same way.
But I did have Ruth. And it was the time of harvest. And though I felt hopeless, part of me still knew that there was hope. Just as God had made my land barren and then made it fruitful again, maybe there was a chance he would restore my name.