10 March 2014

Naomi: Bitter

Ruth 1 | Isaiah 54

Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me? (Ruth 1:20-21)

Call me Bitter.
Bitter is the cup
the Lord gave me to drink,
and I drank it
down, down,
down to its shuddering dregs.

Call me Bitter,
no longer pleasant and sweet,
for all my worth
is stripped away,
and I am nothing now:
childless and barren,
widowed and poor.
Bitter and bitterer
the dregs of my days.

If a woman's worth
lies in having a man,
somebody to love her;
if fulfillment can be found
only in his arms,
then what am I?

If a woman's worth
lies in having children
and bringing up sons,
if she can be complete
only as a mother,
then what am I?

In a world
where the worth of a woman
is measured by her men
- father, husband, sons -
there is no place
for me.
Call me Bitter.

And yet
o Lord
YOU are my Saviour
and you have seen my need.
And I can hear you whisper
my worth is elsewhere:
not in circumstances,
not in wealth and not in man,
not in husbands, nor in sons,
not in love, or duty fulfilled.

YOU, o Lord, are my worth.
You, o Lord, are my fulfillment.
In you, o Lord, I have husband and sons,
you are my riches and finery,
you make me sweet and pleasant again,
for you alone can satisfy.


[September 2013]

Naomi = "pleasant"
Mara = "bitter"

Actually I wrote this coming from Isaiah 54. Isaiah 54 hit me as a text which is all about "women's problems", actually: barrenness, widowhood, etc. It's actually talking about Jerusalem personified as a woman, but reading it I felt it can also speak to women who feel disgraced because of their circumstances - women like Naomi.

I think often we seek our worth in outside things: having a boyfriend or getting married, getting good grades, etc. In Naomi's days, being married and having children was what brought good status, as well as security. Nowadays a woman's worth is no longer as dependent on men as it used to be - but still I get the feeling that many of us (encouraged by the media) think we need a boyfriend, or need to be beautiful, or need to be successful and make a career, to be worth anything. What if you can't? What if something gets in the way and your plans are dashed, like Naomi's were?

We need our priorities straight. Of course, there's nothing wrong with depending on other people, or getting a confidence boost when it turns out a guy likes you. But I think we need to remember that our worth, our value as a person, does not depend on our circumstances or attainments - our worth comes from God who created us in His image. It's a worth that does not go away.

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