Our first years of marriage, I ate a whole lot of leftovers. Wedding cake leftovers. Not ours, I didn’t even bother saving the cake top to eat on our first anniversary. But the leftover cake from the weddings at the hotel where I worked.
Since brides are so incredibly easy going and laid back about their wedding day, which most have been planning since their sixth birthday when Barbie finally got the wedding dress set, there was a ridiculous amount of leftover wedding cake. The divine fluffy, fresh (never frozen) layers of those cakes fed my soul so very well every weekend.
Around year three of my time there, the hotel was selected by then-President George W. Bush as the location for the upcoming G8 Summit. He and Laura had honeymooned there so it was a sentimental selection. The owners of the hotel decided it needed a major renovation to host such an event.
So they promptly made plans to tear the entire place to the ground.
Dr and I decided that would probably be a good time to leave for graduate school.
I loved everything about my job. Even those easy-going brides who never, not once, believed us when we told them, no, “most everyone” was not a good number on which to base your food order.
But it was time. If for no other reason than the number of weddings and social events we could host over the next two years would be drastically reduced. What with most of the hotel literally demolished.
We would tell people, “Sometimes you’re not sure what God’s will is. And then sometimes, He tears your hotel down.”
Ruth’s Ministry of Leftovers…
I feel like Naomi could have said that same thing a couple of times in her life.
Sometimes you don’t know God’s will. And then sometimes, He sends a famine to your homeland so you and your husband move to find food.
Sometimes you aren’t sure if you should return home after the famine has ended. And then sometimes, your husband and two sons both die leaving you no choice.
Ruth, though, she had a choice.
She was a Moabite woman who had married Mahlon, one of Naomi’s sons. Widows did not have a whole lot of options. She could either stay with her husband’s family or go back home to her father’s family. Since she was from Moab, it would make sense that she would want to remain in her own county.
But she doesn’t. Ruth wants to be with Naomi.
In her speech to Naomi (one quoted in countless weddings, including ours), Ruth pledges to be her mother-in-law’s faithful companion for the rest of her life.
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” ~Ruth 1:16b-17 (NIV)
And that’s exactly what she does.
She leaves her homeland, her family, her pagan god, and chooses Naomi’s people, her homeland, and her God, the God of Israel.
The women return to Bethlehem, to Naomi’s home, with their head’s hung low. Whatever power and position and wealth they may have had when their husbands were alive, they lost at their death. In Bethlehem, they hoped to be taken care of by a family member who might take pity on them.
When they arrived, Ruth decided to go out and seek the leftovers to feed them.
“And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’” ~Ruth 2:2 (NIV)
In picking up those leftovers, she caught the eye of Boaz, a relative from her late father-in-law’s family. Boaz seems to have fallen in love with Ruth almost at first sight. He then protects her, cares for her, and eventually, marries her.
Ruth, the foreigner and widow, finds a new life, a new love, a new God, in her commitment to Naomi and their life together by seeking the leftovers others completely overlooked.
Our Ministry of Leftovers…
Not sure about you but I feel like I don’t have a whole lot of leftovers these days. Not much unused time, unaccounted for money, unclaimed margin in my life. The ministry of my family, the ministry of my community, of teaching two-year-olds, the ministry of laundry and grocery shopping and writing, they have all taken up almost every second.
Almost. Because what I feel and what is true are two very different things.
The truth is every time I turn on the TV or click a social media app or head out to Goodwill for treasure hunting, that is time and energy and resources I could be using some other way.
My pastor said it this way, “What you treasure you will allow to inconvenience you.”
The truth is I have cracks of time, spaces where I wait, hours I chose to spend on myself, and I wonder what my ministry, my job, my calling would look like if I dedicated those leftovers to what I say with my mouth I treasure most.
Ruth did that. She allowed what she treasured, Naomi, to inconvenience her and ultimately lead her to a foreign land, picking up leftovers from the harvesters in the blazing hot sun all day long.
What if I called (let’s be honest, texted) a friend to check in on her instead of scrolling mindlessly at the corner waiting for the kids to come out of school?
What if I didn’t turn on the TV after the kids go down but decided to work ahead on my bible study or my writing?
What if I volunteered at my daughter’s school instead of roaming the aisles of Target?
What if we asked God what He wanted us to do with our leftovers?
And what if He wanted us to simply spend that time with Him?
The Offering of Our Leftovers…
Ruth is a beautiful picture of love and faithfulness. She doesn’t mention her safety or her comfort or her fears in either her pledge to Naomi nor her decision to go out for leftovers. She was a foreign widow doing what she could to provide for herself and Naomi.
And God not only used her leftovers, the pieces she picked up around her that were unused and unclaimed, but He provided those leftovers too.
As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” ~Ruth 2:15-16 (NIV, emphasis mine)
Goodness, I adore this picture of Boaz providing for Ruth and Naomi.
I think God would blow us away if we decided to offer Him our leftovers, asked Him to direct our steps, allowed Him to inconvenience us.
But I also believe God deserves our gratitude for His provision of leftovers to us in the first place. Instead of believing we don’t have the time, we should stop and critically think about the ways we do use the cracks of time, the hours of Netflix, the mindless window shopping. See how God has already given us the hours we do need for ministry.
Where are your leftovers?