Probably the biggest fear that single women deal with is that if they don’t take matters into their own hands, they will miss out on the opportunity to be married. Today’s guys are not well-trained in the art of winning, pursuing, and cherishing the heart of a woman. And oftentimes, women feel that they are in a game of “survival of the fittest” in which the available men quickly get claimed by the most aggressive women, while the ones who guard their feminine mystery and focus on Christ alone get passed over.
Modern voices and the urgent whisperings of the enemy don’t make this battle any easier. An all-too-common error floating around out there goes something like this:
Because God created the majority of us for marriage, it also stands to reason that we as women are supposed to pursue marriage, to be strategic and intentional about finding a husband, and to “give God a hand” in finding our spouse.
The idea of leaving the pen in God’s hands and trusting Him to orchestrate our love stories sounds ridiculous, outlandish, and even irresponsible to many modern Christians. Those who contend that we write our own love story often point to the biblical story of Ruth as an example of a woman who pursued a man for marriage, or at least a woman who was clever enough to “help” the process along.
At first glance, Ruth’s approach to Boaz seems fairly proactive, even aggressive. She even lays down near him in the middle of the night while he’s sleeping – after they’ve only had one conversation. Talk about being forward toward a guy! But when we take a closer, deeper look at the story of Ruth, we discover that she is anything but a calculating, marriage-seeking woman. In fact, her story presents an amazing example of absolute surrender to God and leaving the pen in His faithful hands.
In the beginning of the story, Ruth is a Moabitess, married to a Jew. When her husband dies, she cleaves to her mother-in-law Naomi and refuses to leave her side, even when Naomi decides to return to her own people in Israel. This was not just an emotional attachment to her dead husband’s mother. Rather, Ruth recognized that Naomi’s God was the only true God. She knew that in order to serve the one true God, she must leave behind everything – her home, her family, her friends, even her very heritage as a Moabitess, and take on an entirely new identity. She says to Naomi:
Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me. (Ruth 1:16)
She knew in order to serve the one true God, she had to leave everything behind.
This incredible statement reveals a complete emptying of self. An absolute surrender and abandonment to serve Naomi and Naomi’s God with every breath from that day forward. A laying down of all her own pursuits, dreams, and identity. And an amazing picture of what God desires in our attitude toward Christ. Ruth was not looking out for her own interests or her own dreams – she was yielded and subservient to Naomi the very same way we are to be yielded and subservient to our King.
Throughout the rest of the story, Ruth is sensitive and obedient to Naomi in the very same way that we are to be sensitive and obedient to the Spirit of God. When Naomi asks Ruth to submit herself to Boaz, it is so that she might become the catalyst of redemption for the family. Contrary to popular belief, Ruth didn’t pursue Boaz because she wanted to find herself another husband and he seemed like a “good catch.” Ruth could have gone after many younger, more desirable men. (See Ruth 3:10.) But Boaz was the nearest kinsman to Naomi, and he alone could redeem their family line and rescue them from the poverty and shame that had come upon them. It wasn’t about Ruth’s desires – it was about obedience.
Instead of chasing after younger men to fulfill her own needs, Ruth allows her will to be swallowed up in Naomi’s. Ruth’s attitude was one of yielding all selfish desires and submitting, not only to Boaz himself, but to Naomi as well. Ruth could have had her pick of younger men. But she chose to forgo her own whims and submit to Naomi’s wishes. She chose to wait for Boaz, not because he was her first choice for a husband, but because he is the nearest kinsman to Naomi and the only one who can redeem her family line.
Naomi asks Ruth to lay aside her own desires and become the catalyst for redemption. She willingly submits to Naomi, saying, “all that you say to me I will do.” (Ruth 3:5)
It is also very important to realize that Ruth was not self-promoting toward Boaz. Rather, the first time he speaks to her, she falls on her face and bows down to the ground, saying:
Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner? (Ruth 2:11)
Talk about honoring and serving a man’s position! Ruth is the opposite of an aggressive, take-the-lead kind of woman. Instead, she is utterly self-effacing and humble – beyond what most of us could ever imagine. Her attitude reflects that of Christ’s when He “made Himself nothing and took on the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7).
Her attitude reflects that of Christ when he made himself nothing and took on the form of a servant.
When Ruth uncovers Boaz’s feet and lays down as he sleeps (in obedience to Naomi) it’s a profound statement, not of forwardness, but of the utmost humility and submission.
My Bible’s commentary says:
Women of the East, when going to be with their lawful husbands, would, through modesty, and in token of subjection to them, go to the foot of the bed, gently raise the covers, creep up under them to their place. In the case of Ruth, she was merely to uncover the feet of Boaz and lie down there until he should discover her presence and tell her what to do.
When Ruth made herself known to Boaz, it was not to fulfill her own attraction or need for a husband. Rather, it was an act of selflessness and sacrifice.
As the commentary continues:
All Bethlehem knew that Ruth was a virtuous woman, for remaining a widow was one of the greatest proofs of purity to Jews. No doubt many young men, rich and poor, had sought her hand in marriage, but she had refused them. Boaz blessed Ruth…for being willing to take him, an older man, instead of rejecting him for a younger one, rich or poor.
Ruth appealed to Boaz as a kinsman redeemer for Naomi’s family line. It is not that she was saying, “I like you, Boaz, will you marry me?” Rather, she was saying in essence, “I am willing for you to purchase me as your wife, that Naomi’s family name might be redeemed. I offer my body as a living sacrifice.” She was giving up her own pursuits and desires and offering to become a bond-slave. Just exactly what Christ asks us to do when we take up our Cross and follow Him. That’s why Boaz praised Ruth for her virtue, and that’s why he marveled that she did not follow after younger men:
Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. (Ruth 3:10-11)
She was pouring out her all on the altar in order to receive him as a kinsman-redeemer. She was sacrificing her own desires and allowing herself to be purchased and redeemed.
What a beautiful and profound picture of our rightful attitude toward Christ – much like Mary of Bethany pouring out her most priceless treasure upon Jesus’ feet. Ruth was not a woman who saw a guy she liked and helped the process along until he noticed her and became interested in her. Ruth is a woman who sacrificed everything to follow God’s will for her life.
And because she laid her all on the altar, she was immensely blessed. Just as we will be, when we lay down our own pursuits and whims, and yield completely to God’s voice alone.
Can you trust God enough to wait for His direction, His timing, and His best? Can you yield to His design and allow the man He has chosen for you to take the lead, be the pursuer, and be the one to win your heart? Do you believe that God is more than capable of awakening a man’s heart toward you when the time is right? Can you wait for your Isaac instead of rushing ahead and creating an Ishmael?
If you aren’t willing right now, ask God’s Spirit to transform your attitude and make you willing. It’s a prayer He delights to answer.
Back to that question of what we should do when it comes to this area of our lives.
Ruth provides an amazing example: Yield. Submit. Let go of our own agenda. Don’t chase after available men. Humble ourselves. Watch. Pray. Listen. Obey.
And then sit back in wonder as God does His amazing work.