Kahinde Wiley's reminagination of George Dawe's classic portrait, Naomi and Her Daughters, captures one of my favorite moments in the Bible: the moment when Naomi, suspended between the devastation of her past and the hopelessness of her future, tells her daughters-in-law to leave her, and Ruth clings to her instead.
This is the moment, right in the middle of Naomi's story, when there's no reason to hope. Every good thing is dead and gone: husband, sons, crops in the field. Starvation is imminent.
Ruth is staying with Naomi, sure.
But Ruth is just a girl. A foreign girl. No family connections, no possible male heir to inherit a piece of land that might be planted in crops, to save both their lives.
"We need a man," Naomi says, "and I can't get you one." (Ruth 1:11)
We've read the book of Ruth, so we know how the story goes. How Ruth works and plans and arranges, and how she finds food and a husband and brings a child into the family for Naomi's provision in her old age. We know that at the end of the story, the women of Bethlehem say that Ruth is better than seven sons. We know the happy ending.
But Naomi, in this moment? She's lost almost everything. She doesn't know the ending, like we do, and she is not okay.
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"
"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almight has brought misfortune upon me." (Ruth 1:18-21)
I love this moment when Naomi is so profoundly not okay.
I have lived in this moment, standing in the middle of a road and saying, "I'm done." Knowing that my life was broken beyond repair.
I could have spoken those exact words that Naomi spoke. The Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, and came back empty. The Lord didn't stop all the disasters from happening. He has afflicted me.
I didn't know the ending of my story, either. I was profoundly not okay.
And yet. There was redemption that I could not imagine, and friends who would not leave me alone.
The beautiful thing about being profoundly not okay in the terrible, traumatic periods of life is this:
NOTHING separates us from the Love of God.
We know these verses:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
NOTHING separates us from the Love of God.
That NOTHING includes you and me, and our pain and our hopelessness and our fear and even our bitterness.
Hear me now, dear friends:
BEING PROFOUNDLY NOT OKAY TODAY DOES NOT SEPARATE YOU FROM THE LOVE OF GOD.
Your "bad attitude" doesn't stop God from doing what God needs to do.
You and your bad attitude are not in charge here.
God is in charge here.
Love is in charge.
God sees us where we are. He knows that we don't know. He understands the pain we're in. He gets the hopelessness and fear and bitterness.
And He Loves us.
And He redeems.
Now. All of that sounds good if you aren't actively suffering in this moment.
Bit if you're suffering right now, it probably sounds like pure bullshit. And you're getting mad just reading it.
NOTHING separates us from the Love of God, even when we think it's all bullshit.
If you can possibly, possibly stand it, let your friends and your therapist and your recovery group stay with you. Let Love cling to you and follow you home and do whatever it needs to do, even if it all feels totally hopeless and bitter.
If you can listen to music, that might help too.
But even when you can't do any of that, NOTHING separates you from the Love of God.
You can't stop Love, any more than you can stop the sun from shining.
And Love is for you.
You, precious and beloved.
When you can't see the end of the story.
When it all feels like bitterness and bullshit.
Here and now.
Love is for you, and it's not leaving.