Guest Post by Revd Canon Dr Emma Percy, Chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford and Chair of WATCH (Women and The Church)
In a world where men offer protection and purpose, I was blessed.
Elimelech married me, provided for me and cared for me.
God blessed our union with two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.
I birthed them and fed them, watched over them as they grew from boys to men.
For their sakes we left home and family to find food in Moab.
In another land we found a new life, a good life, until sorrow and loss took my men from me.
First I lost Elimelech, and I became a widow, dependent on the kindness of my sons.
They found happiness with local girls and again I was blessed.
Their wives became daughters of my heart; Orpah and Ruth.
Then tragedy struck.
To lose one son is heart breaking to lose both is beyond words;
grief, anger, self-pity, self-loathing, emptiness, loss.
Three women alone, without men in a world where men offer protection and purpose,
no longer blessed but cursed and afflicted.
And I longed for home.
For the land I knew, for familiar food and conversation.
For shared faith and stories.
I wanted to return.
And my daughters showed me love and commitment.
They were not my flesh and blood but they are my kin.
We hold memories of Mahlon and Kilion.
Our knowing them, our shared lives, provide an anchor in this sea of grief and loss.
So as I move they move with me.
Yet, I am asking too much of them.
It is I whose life is finished; I who am a mother without children.
We share the status of widows but they are young, their bodies are still ripe,
they can find new opportunities new men to love, and the unbelievable joy of a fruitful womb,
a baby at the breast. They can find this in their own land with their own people.
Beloved Oprah takes my words of wisdom and parts with a kiss. My blessing goes with her.
Beloved Ruth commits to travelling with me and so we go.
Two widows return to my homeland where she becomes the foreigner.
My land, my people and in time Ruth weds Boaz, my kinsman
and I have a grandchild to hold and delight in.
So at the ending of my life I am again blessed.
Maternal God teach us to rejoice in the years of blessing that, like Naomi, we may keep hope in times of joy and sorrow
and find strength from the companions who travel with us.
Help us to know that in your grace there is always the promise of new life, and in your love always the security of home.