Are you a Naomi or a Mara?

Last week I had the best night of IV staff work I’ve experienced since the pandemic began! A group of Creighton OT2 students invited me to teach their small group in Oct/Nov. I brought them the story of Naomi (aka the book of Ruth). It’s the perfect pandemic narrative.

What’s with the loops?

This is one way to look at the story-line of the book of Ruth. I learned it as the Lowry Loop waaaay back in Homiletics lab. A character is moving along minding her own business, then out the blue something drops from the sky that threatens life. In Naomi’s case it was a famine. But it wasn’t just an isolated threat – it became a Quadruple Whammy!

Just like covid, an unwelcome antagonist unleashed multiple waves of undeserved punishment. Have you ever wondered why trials never happen as singlets? They always come two-for-the-price-of-one or in a convenient four-pack (like Costco uni-sex, one-size-fits-all underwear).

Naomi’s family lost their livelihood to a famine. They moved to a neighboring country with a foreign language and a very foreign god. Then things really got interesting… Naomi’s husband dies. Naomi has to marry her two sons off to Moabite women (what Jewish mother in her right mind would do that). Then her two sons die one after the other. And she’s left literally with nothing that would give a Jewish woman a hope or a future.

Are you sure this was a great pick for your group?

The students I’m studying Ruth with are Occupational Therapists in training. These are the people who put you back together after you have a stroke or some other accident or medical disaster. These students already know the book of Ruth when you stop and think about it. Naomi found herself after Lowry Loop #3 in a paralysis, stuck in a living situation she would have never picked for herself. Waiting for a vaccine.

There were a total of 9 of us who studied the book of Ruth. Here’s our group when we did chapter 4. A few striking pandemic-relief realities we found in the lives of Naomi and Ruth:

  1. Trials will always come. Just count on them. Not if… When… they come will you hold life loosely enough to let God move you through them? They will hurt. You will lose things.
  2. Will hardship mar your identity? Or will character pull you through the pandemic and make you a better person on the other side? Naomi’s name means “pleasant”. When she crawled back to Bethlehem after her humiliation she said, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara.” Mara means “bitter”. She blamed God for her losses and was ready to let her pandemic redefine her personality. Is anyone reading this?
  3. God provides the redemptive turn. It may take a while. God’s goal isn’t your paralysis. Your plot-line will bend back in a redemptive direction.
  4. There were 6 redemptive turns (at least) in the Naomi and Ruth’s story. Moab DID provide food and stability following the famine. Ruth and Orpah WERE good women for Naomi’s sons. The grain harvests DID return to Bethlehem. Etc…
  5. God’s favorite redemptive turns come in the form of people. God is never interested in just giving you the stuff you need. It’s so much more fun for him to give you the PEOPLE you need. Naomi needed Ruth and Orpah. She and Ruth needed Boaz and his good favor. Naomi needed her friends back in Bethlehem (even if they were tempted to gossip about her). Ruth needed Boaz. They all needed baby Obed at the end of the story!

So, how’s your pandemic going?

Are your losses still dogging you? Are you still in pain about anything? How do you feel about God letting this happen to you and those you care about? What’s interesting about Naomi’s story-line is that in spite of her crappy attitude, God doesn’t allow her to change her name from Naomi to Mara. Don’t let covid wear your personality down and change you from a Naomi to a Mara! Ask God to show you WHO you need and don’t be so worried about not having WHAT you need. At the end of the story when little Obed is peeing in her lap, Naomi’s girlfriends are laughing at her with joy. “Naomi has a son.” (Naomi, you do know that’s Ruth’s baby…)

When you think of my ministry, first of all, pray for these terrific Occupational Therapy Doctoral students! They are working incredibly hard to one day put themselves in a place of skilled healing in the lives of countless wounded people. They’ll be God’s people in a place of redemptive turn. They’ll get to see God use them to move life forward. Pray for their training. Pray for their relationship with Jesus to grow during these years of intense work. Pray for them as they each deal with their own pandemic antagonists.

Working on finding more donors….

Secondly, when you think of me, pray for God to bring more supporters to my ministry. I’m currently trying to address a deficit that has been developing since early last spring. As of October 31st, I need to resolve an $11K budget deficit! In posts to follow I’ll update you on how I’m doing with closing the Covid Gap. Between now and the end of the year I’ll be asking everyone supporting my work to let me know how they plan to partner with me in 2021. Please reply me when you get those posts!

My God bless you and keep you. Have a terrific and safe Thanksgiving!

Click here to donate to Tim’s work.

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