Day #17: Relationships

But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16

If, as Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “A person is a person through other persons,”  then we can imagine ourselves as mosaics, colorful works of art given depth and brightness by the gleaming shards of the people we’ve met and been transformed by. In short, our capacity for resilience is shaped by the relationships we choose build. When Ruth’s husband dies and she finds herself a destitute and culturally marginalized widow, she invests in the most important (hopeful, mentoring, generous) relationship in her life. That hopeful, mentoring, generous relationship is with her mother-in-law Naomi, who happens to be a woman from a foreign country and religion. Ruth commits to that relationship, telling Naomi that no matter where they go, there is hope in their choosing to go together. Ruth prioritizes resilience through her relationship with Naomi and Naomi, in her grief, also is able to recommit to resilience. Ruth becomes an anchor for Naomi to (slowly, slowly, slowly) begin to see new possibilities for her life. Ruth and Naomi become compasses for each other, each one pointing the other in the direction of healing and hopefulness, and their friendships multiply outward in their new home, where they quickly build new, nourishing relationships. The best friendships work this way, guiding us through unnamable grief, drawing us toward love and community and a sense of belonging.

Takeaway: Think of the people who bring you to your most loved, most hopeful, most nurtured self–your compasses. The ones you’d consider moving for. The relationships that, built on a healthy foundation, allow you to grow and stabilize during seasons of upheaval. Touch base with one of your compass relationships today. No agenda needed, just a quick conversation to remind yourself who you are at your most loved.

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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Day #8: Generosity

 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here, eat some of the bread, and dip your piece in the vinegar.” She sat alongside the harvesters, and he served roasted grain to her. She ate, was satisfied, and had leftovers.
-Ruth 2:16

Bread. Vinegar. Toasted grain. It’s a simple meal, but for a subsistence community, it’s a generous one. Boaz owes nothing to Ruth for her courage to show up in the field—she is allowed to be there, by law, and to glean, but Boaz owes her and the other working-class women who glean nothing. Yet Boaz extends generosity. He gives to Ruth above and beyond what the law requires. Maybe he just thinks she’s cute. (There’s always the cynical interpretation.) Or maybe he knows there are no guarantees in life but in this moment he has more than enough and who is he to keep the more when he has enough? Maybe Boaz is just resilient. Resilience is generous. Intriguingly, recent scientific studies show generous people tend to report greater happiness, lower depression, and better physical health. Perhaps it’s because they’ve traded a scarcity mindset for a mentality of abundance—they spend less energy keeping others out. Instead of “what’s mine is mine to keep,” they say “what I have been given is mine to give.” They know that there is more to gained in giving than in defending. Anything we have been gifted—food, shelter, love, friendship—is ours to re-gift and magnify and multiply. What I have been given is not mine, but ours, and we will always be stronger in generosity than in selfishness.

Takeaway: Be generous today. Give before it is asked. Give more than what is asked. But don’t give what you don’t have to give—give of what you have in abundance, whether that’s cash or time or compliments or a freezer full of blueberries or a sense of humor. Share it generously with those you meet today, so much so that they will have leftovers.

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Day #6: Courage

 Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field so that I may glean among the ears of grain behind someone in whose eyes I might find favor.”
Naomi replied to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Ruth 2:2

Elanor Roosevelt is supposed to have said, “Do something every day that scares you.” Maybe she was thinking of Ruth, who took that maxim to its extreme, when, after the sudden death of her husband, she followed her mother-in-law to a foreign country and then insisted on providing for them both. In this verse, Ruth takes her courage and, first, confronts her mother-in-law about her plan and then, with her mother-in-law’s consent, walks out the door to execute it. Courage is more than persistence. Persistence is the exhausted cheerleader inside your brain waving a half-hearted just-get-through-the-game pompom. Courage is what happens when, given the choice, you choose the path with the greatest possibility even though it terrifies you. Imagine what would’ve happened if Ruth had chosen to stay home—never made a career as a professional gleaner, never met Boaz, never married Boaz and provided for her mother-in-law. Not exactly: because of cultural convention, Ruth probably would’ve eventually ended up married to one of her mother-in-law’s relatives—but because of her courage, she gets a level of choice and consent in her marriage that was otherwise impossible. Courage is choosing to stay an agent in your own life when you have the option to become passive. To happen to the world instead of letting the world happen to you.

Takeaway: Of course your task today is to do something that scares you. A big scare or a little scare, but something to take that amorphous cloud of fear and stick it into a courage-shaped jar that fits in your pocket. Sign up for that salsa class; make a plan to pay off your credit card debt; call the therapist whose number you’ve had for weeks. Do something that scares you—because you’re already scared, the difference is that today you’re doing something. 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).