I have always being intrigued by the story of Ruth. Here was a lady who had known pain and loss, having lost her husband early in life. Pain can make a person look inwards. Instead we see her choosing to follow her mother-in- law Naomi, choosing to care for her instead of returning home to her family of origin and her homeland (Ruth 1:15-18).
She had no grandiose plans to do anything heroic for God. I am sure she never ever thought that she would become the great-grandmother of King David and thereby become a key figure in salvation history. All she did was choose to stay with her mother-in-law and care for her. Yet God blesses her act of filial piety and sacrificial love and makes it a key part of His plans for humankind.
The story of Ruth both rebukes and encourages me. I often dream of doing great things for God. Give me a goliath to confront. Let me part a sea or two. (My favourite character in the Lord of the Rings is Gandalf. ‘Nuff said.)
Nowadays a lot of my time is spent giving my kids rides to various meetings. And deciding which cooking oil is best for my family. Not quite what I had in mind when I gave my life to vocational Christian ministry.
I realize that most of our lives are not heroic. Most of our lives are defined by duties — showing up at the office, caring for an aged parent, changing diapers, preparing the annual accounts, buying groceries….
A media age thrives on larger than life heroes. But only a privileged few make it into prime time. This seems to be true of Christendom as well. You know you are doing significant things for God when your name appears in the right publications. Or when you are invited to minister at key events.
If only those who make it into prime time are doing significant things for God, then most of us are doomed to being bit players, lost in anonymity. It’s not so much that we lust for fame. One day it strikes us that life is short. And we want ours to count. And there we are changing diapers.
Hence the quiet example of Ruth speaks to us. It tells us that God has a very different system in evaluating what or who is significant. Heroism and significance are not synonyms in God’s dictionary. Many of our names will not be known this side of heaven. But God knows everyone of us. He alone knows the significance of everything that is done. He alone knows how simple, hidden acts of obedience advances His purposes.
We go back to this cardinal truth. All we are called to do is to be faithful. In His hands, two fishes and five loaves can feed a hungry crowd. A simple shepherd’s staff can part a sea. But we have to be faithful.
Some of us are called to challenge Goliaths. (Or hold back flood waters with psychokinetic energy? Go see X2.) Some of us are called to change diapers. God expects us to be faithful. And leave the judgement call of what is truly important to Him.
Instead, let’s lose ourselves in Him. And in blessing others with what we are called to do. Faithful.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan