“Spread the corner of your blanket over me, since you are a kinsman redeemer,” Ruth asks Boaz when he wakes up in the middle of the night at the threshing floor to find a woman sleeping at his feet. Ruth identifies herself as “his servant” and proposes to Boaz invoking the cultural tradition of kinsman redeemer. Ruth proposes. I’ve never thought of it that way. Ruth a “foreigner,” “widow,” powerless woman” in non-American culture has shown amazing proactive ability in the midst of circumstances that would make us think she is powerless. She refuses to return home in Chapter 1 and align herself with the “same ole, same ole” but steps forward to align herself with Naomi. It was a toss-up if this was better odds. By Chapter 2 she has observed, listened and asked to glean grain in any ole field to stave off starvation. Life is hard but she works hard, putting in long hours in back breaking labor. Now in Chapter 3 Naomi advises her to break with tradition and go to the threshing floor at night and approach Boaz. Interestingly, Naomi did not go to Boaz. Naomi is not asserting her cultural rights but Naomi is healing from bitterness and grief – that is her story. Ruth’s story is long-term care in a seemingly powerless situation. How did she do it?
I first note she self identifies as “servant” when Boaz asks who is sleeping at his feet. Ruth does not raise her fist and demand her rights but coyly acknowledges “the system” and her need for help. Perhaps we call that “meekness,” not the meekness that means you get beat-up by a bully but the meekness that signals internal strength and control. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, (Matthew 5:5).” With humility, Ruth approaches Boaz, acknowledging his status, acknowledging her need and relationship but I sense also acknowledging his power of decision over the outcome. That does not seem to threaten her nor cower her into silence. She has internal power to navigate life amidst the social realities.
Secondly I note her request that Boaz lay “a corner of your garment.” She does not request the whole pie, just a piece. How often in our search for happiness and care, are we so focused on the goal that we discard and discredit the small steps along the way? As I reflect on dating in my youth, I remember the interrogation by roommates after the date and always in the back ground was the question of love and proposal. My husband would say while dating, “Wouldn’t you rather bicycle through the Redwoods?” I had not studied Ruth then.
We are reading Ruth through the lens of care relationships. Someone in the relationship of caring is often struggling with feelings of powerlessness. Today I ponder what titles I speak into those situations. “Servant” is a gentle, respectful lens to see myself and the other. It feels like love, concern and compassion as opposed to “duty.” Also I must ask myself if I can be content with just a “corner” or am I demanding the whole blanket? In Ezekiel 16:8 God speaks using the same imagery of discovering Israel abandon and helpless and that he spreads “the corner of his garment over her.” Blankets have many corners. God has many ways to come along side. May you enjoy the journey in your care relationships today. Blessings.