In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1:1-5 MSG
When I was a child, I loved to read. One of my favorite activities was to visit the library and check out the maximum number of books allowed. I loved books because books could take me anywhere. Stories allowed me to escape the limits of my current life and travel to faraway places. When I read a well-written story, I felt like I was part of the action. I experienced the joy, pain, and heartache along with the main characters, and I learned much about life from the books I read.
When I recently read the book of Ruth, the book started off like all good stories do, "Once upon a time...." Although the story of Ruth starts off the way so many stories do, Ruth’s story is immediately different. In most books, you learn about the characters and glimpse them in some happy times before tragedy strikes. However, in Ruth, tragedy strikes before we can finish the first paragraph.
In the first few sentences of the story, Naomi’s husband dies. It seems like the story is going to lead to happier times when Naomi’s two sons marry, but Naomi’s happiness is short lived. Not long after Naomi loses her husband, she also loses both of her sons. It is hard to imagine that a story that begins with such pain, sadness, and loss could be a story of hope. Yet, many people say that Ruth is their favorite book of the Bible.
Even though Naomi’s “Once upon a time” is filled with heartache and loss, hope remains. After all, “Once upon a time” is only the beginning of the story, and there is much life to be lived between “Once upon a time” and “The End.”
Our lives are like the book of Ruth. The beginning or middle of our story may be filled with loss, trauma, desperation, and grieving. Yet, we also have hope. If you are reading this now, this is not your “The End” because you still have life to live. As long as you have breath, you have the opportunity to continue to shape your story. There is so much to learn and live during the "in between" of life.
When you face loss, heartache, and pain, do you convince yourself that this portion of your story is the way your life will always be? Are you able to look past your beginning or your middle and cling to the hope that this is not the end?
As you reflect on today's “Once Upon A Time”, ask God to renew your hope that your beginning is not the end.
Jesus, Thank You for the life that You have given us. Remind us that the beginning and the middle of our story is not the end. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.