Monday, October 8, 2012

Call me Mara.


She had worked all her life in service to her family.
She birthed those sons in pain and blood.
She packed up her home with her own hands,
and followed her husband out of the drought.
The famine.
Out of the homeland and its inheritance.
They left it all and moved away into Moab.
There in a land not her own, she fed them.
She clothed them.
She took care of them when they were sick.
And then her husband died,
and she had to lead alone.

She began to look forward in hope from all the leaving and the loss,
when her sons were old enough to marry.
She found them wives.
Moabite wives, yes.
That hadn't been her dream.
But these were nice enough girls.
One day soon, maybe the loneliness would fade.
There would be women to share the load with,
and sons who could protect them,
and make their living.
And babies.
Laughing grandbabies she could offer advice about raising,
and rock to sleep,
and pretend away the sadness with.
Maybe it wouldn't all be loss.

For ten years she hoped,
while her daughters-in-law did not conceive.
Every month at first, that hopeful excitement.
Is my grandbaby on the way?
Surely any day now...
But the day did not come.
And then her last living hopes died.

The sons she had birthed in pain and blood were gone.
Their father had led her here to this alien place.
She had no friends.
No sisters a few houses down.
And two barren daughters-in-law.
They probably blamed her.
Everything around her ended in disaster.
Everything she touched turned to dust.
But these women were past their fruitful prime,
and had a ten year record of infertility.
Who would marry them?

Her homeland had good crops again.
It came like a breeze in the market place.
Maybe she bought grain that had traveled the road from her home.
Working it into bread,
perhaps she thought about the fields her young husband had worked.
How they had built their dreams there,
and birthed their sons there,
and harvested life there.
It had been nothing but a harvest of misery for years.
She decided to go back.
She had nothing here to keep her.
Better to die among friends.
Better to cry over losses with friends.
They had known her husband,
and rejoiced over her sons' births.
They could sympathize with her.

She didn't want these poor daughters-in-law
to have the same fate she had suffered.
Bereft in a strange land.
They'd been good girls, but it was too much to ask.
Ruth, odd girl, chose the mourning.
She'd rather stay under the cloud.
It seemed like choosing a curse.
Even her words sounded like she was choosing death.

All those old friends still recognized her.
They were excited to have her home.
Ah, but they remembered her hopeful and pleasant.
They remembered her a landowner.
They remembered her a mother.
They remembered her a wife with a husband who loved her.
They remembered a woman with a future.
There was nothing for her now.
All her fruit lay rotting in Moab.

"Don't call me Naomi.
Call me Mara.
I had full hands when I left,
but the Lord has taken everything away from me.
The Lord afflicts me.
The Lord sent tragedy to me.
Call me Mara."
I've eaten bitterness, and I'm a disaster.

Aren't you glad it doesn't end there?
Because this woman with no hope
and no family
and no property
and nothing to live for
is cuddling her grandson in the last verses,
and her daughter-in-law is better than ten sons to her,
and the future she thought was cut off
is connected to the past by a different branch.
And she embraced it.

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