“When she heard…. (Ruth 1:6).” The context of our lives so impacts our care-giving strategies. Our family at the start of the book of Ruth, flees Bethlehem for Moab due to a famine. In Moab, the father dies, the two sons marry women from Moab and they die. Ten years have passed and the wife, bereft of family and responsible for two daughter-in-laws is again T-boned by the reality of her circumstances. Naomi hears that God has blessed her homeland and remembers.
This morning we awake to the news media debating the meaning and potential outcome of our presidential elections. We hear and reflect what life will look like from now on? Perhaps we reflect back on past debated elections, perhaps we pack our bags, but definitely we ponder.
As a young adult I worked in Hollywood on a suicide crisis phone line several nights a week. One principle I remember is that people in crisis develop tunnel vision and suicide appears the only way to resolve conditions pressing on lives. My job was to talk to them, help them hear, open thinking to forgotten resources and other potential avenues to deal with crisis. I did not talk with Naomi but talk was going on. I want to label this reflective process in the midst of pressing circumstances, self-care. Facing overwhelming external circumstances, we are not only needing to deal with life but we also need to deal with self. Exhausted care-givers who are stretched to their limits face themselves and make decisions. Perhaps medical assistance to care for a loved one lingering or perhaps application for government aid to bridge a time of financial crisis or perhaps it is time to call the sister and have a “heart to heart.” Naomi evaluates her plight, hears the news from Bethlehem, and decides to care for herself and her two daughter-in-laws by returning to Bethlehem.
All coping strategies have a price and returning to Bethlehem as an older woman, widowed, with immigrants sounds scary. Will anyone remember her? Will she be seen as a weakling for fleeing during the famine? She will be starting over and all her former friends will be well established – oh the social embarrassment. In the face of swirling thoughts, Naomi makes the decision to return and the women pack their bags.
We too balance self-care with care for others in the face of contextual stress. We did not rise today to a clear cut victory by either political candidate with implications of either’s victory to be lived into. How will we care for ourselves? Perhaps we are living with the restrictions of age and illness. Perhaps we continue balance working from home with children schooling from home. As we live into our circumstances, I love Psalm 121 where the psalmist writes:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.”