I always come to this stage when I’m making plans. I call it “the out.” If whoever I’m making plans with changes their mind (or if I change mine), I don’t want them to feel tied to what we have planned. I discreetly offer them a guilt-free way out of our plans. It just seems like the right thing to do. We’ve all been there. When plans fall through it’s either a relief, or a sting because we weren’t chosen over something else. Either way, with a way out the rejection comes on our terms which is sometimes easier to swallow.
This is the beginning scene in the book of Ruth. Naomi offers Ruth and Orpah an out by giving both of her daughter-in-laws full permission to leave her, because it would be in their best interest. One chose to leave, one chose to stay, and the story that progressed from there is one that touched the heart of God so much that He chose to include it in the mightiest love story of all time, the genealogy of Christ.
Nobody really reads the genealogies, am I right? I genuinely payed attention to the genealogy of Jesus for the very first time this year as I read the Bible during advent and it wrecked me. All those unpronounceable names and “son of's" truly does speak to an overcoming love. If you look closely in the Gospels, right there in all the generations, you see Ruth’s name. Why? Because she was a ride or die (and for a whole host of other theological reasons that are a bit above my paygrade).
Fair-weather love. A kind of love definitely adventurous and spontaneous. It shouldn’t be scorned completely because it does have its place. But then there is a deeper love. Love that stands the test of fire, time, and opposition. It’s a blue-collar love, messy and labor intensive. It’s a love that sticks out the tough seasons, a love that doesn’t take a constant amount of upkeep and encouragement to be legitimately alive. It blooms despite the darkness. It’s the sound of hope in a vacuous world of opinions and offense. The original word for it is “chesed,” and it’s a love I learned from my mother.
Chesed means “tender loving kindness.” It’s the theme of Ruth, and the most precious stone in the crown of affection that the Lord places on the heads of all believers. Chesed is what tied Ruth to Naomi, even when she was offered the perfect out. Christ gives us the very same opportunity to live this kind of love with God. This is the kind of love that sustains a mother who is bone-tired in the kitchen at the end of a long day. This is the love that causes a friend to keep showing up, even when everyone else has given up. This is the love the poets herald. It’s the love that drove God to save us, and it gives us the courage to accept our salvation. It is the love that people beg, borrow and steal for.
We can trick ourselves into believing that this love should be given to us on a silver platter, but it’s something that only comes with a willingness to stick things out. In the coming year, there are resolutions that ask us to shed things, but I think the thing the Lord has challenged me to learn most of all is to be willing to love to the end, even when it might be in my best interest to leave people, or hopes behind.