It was an older couple walking outside their home, framed in the cool of the day as the sun set behind them and lit the sky aflame. While older, they were still healthy and were in that wonderful time of life where the days ahead were less than the days behind, yet the days ahead were beautiful.
Walking hand in hand, they seemed so peaceful, so at rest in the love that could only be built over a lifetime of being together. At one point, they stopped, turned and looked into each other's eyes. You could see the love they shared. As they walked back to their house, having never seen me, my eyes filled with tears.
I wanted that life. I wanted it more than my next breath.
But for me, and for a love that lasts, it was never the right time.
I always dreamed of being married, of having a family and providing and protecting for them in the fullness of God's blessing. I dreamed of having my wife look at me with love and respect. Honestly, I dreamed of having the marriage all my friends seemed to have. They seemed so happy, their houses so perfect, their children so amazing.
Being around them was an exercise in mixed emotions. I was happy for them (of course), but it hurt. My own loneliness and desire for home and family made it feel like I was at a feast that I couldn't eat of or partake in. I felt guilty that I couldn't just be glad for my friends' good fortune. I resolved to not let it get to me and just rejoice with them in God's blessing on their lives. How selfish could I possibly be?
That didn't work. It still hurt.
I had much to be thankful for. My land was blessed and through hard work and a good team of people, we were doing well. Even during the famine, God saw us through, and we actually increased our holding in that time. My friends would tell me to find a wife, to get out there and look.
But between my growing farming operation, taking care of my parents and the little things of life, my days were full, even if many days my heart was empty. What good is being wealthy if you don't have someone to enjoy it with?
Sifting for me was resisting the temptation to force the issue. To have my men go find a suitable mate for me and entice her with gifts and promises of wealth and the life we could have together. There was growing pressure to do this, or something similar, as I got older. Would my line continue? What was the point?
The years of waiting cost more than I can express. I felt like I was missing something important. Was my purpose really just to do well and amass wealth ... then eventually die? Wasn't there something more? I felt called to be a father. With no marriage or prospects, that's a bit like being called to be a carpenter in a place with no trees or tools. Sometimes I questioned God and sometimes I questioned myself. I grew older and wondered if that dream would be one that would eventually be laid to rest with the others.
My faith was expressed in simplicity. I tied my shoes. I went to work. I did the best I could. My faith was found in being loyal to my sense of things and God's working. In not trying to force the issue and make it happen on my own. In learning patience, even when that became almost too frustrating to bear. Doing the best I could and being met with success that in some ways was empty. But I was okay and harvest was about to begin.
When she appeared.
The most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
It was like she was more real than the world around her. She was cut in relief, her colors more vibrant than the dull environment the rest of us knew. If I could paint, I would paint her. If I could write music, I would try to capture what I saw in that instant in melody and harmonic structure. People were talking to me, and I answered without really hearing them. Trying not to stare, I did little else but wonder about her throughout the morning.
I made some inquiry. She was a foreigner. She was poor. She was staying with Naomi who had returned after all these years. Ruth was a woman of character and grace who had fallen on hard times.
She came to my field. Of all the places she could have chosen, she came to me. I wondered if it was by accident or destiny. I truly didn't care as long as she came back tomorrow. Let's see what we can do to get her to come back tomorrow. I don't think I've ever seen my men more amused, sharing looks and knowing glances. Love was in the air and it was catching. I surreptitiously instructed my team to help her efforts gathering a bit of leftover grain and my co-conspirators readily agreed.
The midday meal tasted better with her at the table. The air smelled like summer, as the sun shone warmly on my resurrected heart. The harvesters rose and barley fell to scythes and practiced hands. The sheaves gathered and bundled in the rhythm we had known since we were children.
The men started singing in the field to pass the afternoon hours, and my voice rose to join the chorus.
It was a good day, and thanks to my men, Ruth would leave with as much food as she could carry. Naomi would get the message. We'll see where it goes from there.
Father God, is it time? Is it finally time?
And she was worth the wait.
"When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Let her gather among the sheaves and don't reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her."
So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.
Her mother-in-law asked her, "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" (Ruth 2:14a-19).