“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth 1:14 ESV
I can remember going to Grandma and Grandpa Bennett’s house for Christmas Day festivities. After opening our presents at home, and eating the delicious Christmas rolls my mom would make, we would get ready for the hour drive to the small town of Windsor. The house was full of the chatter of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The volume loud, and the politics hot. While the adults did their adulting conversations, I had an entire day with my cousins to play. My grandparents’ house was an escape room before there was one. So many places to go, hide, and have make believe adventures. Often, we would put on a Christmas show for the adults after dinner. The day seemed to last forever. The only part that I didn’t look forward to was saying goodbye. When my dad told us it was time to go, we all started to tear up. Our little hearts were heavy because we didn’t know when we would see each other again. It was so hard to say goodbye. With tears in our eyes, we hugged our cousins, loaded up in the car to head home. Our tears would last for a bit but before long we were fast asleep in the back seat worn out from the busy time of play. When we woke up the next morning, we were on to the next thing, playing with our new toys we left behind on Christmas day and barely thinking of our broken hearts the night before. We had love and affection for our cousins, but we would get over it quick when there was a Green Machine ready to ride (that is another story for another day.) There were other things to do and a life to live that did not include them.
Now compare this with years later, and I am in college. I have met the love of my life, the girl I am going to marry, and she tells me she isn’t coming back for the second semester. She would stay at home and go to community college. My heart hurt. I did not know if I could make it. The day I had to return to school without her was one of the worst days ever. Ok, maybe not worst, but at the time it seemed that way. There were no cell phones, texting, and facetime. Only good old-fashioned letters and the U.S. Mail service. There was a guy down the hall with a phone line that I would pay to talk to Christi. Oh, how I hated when he got the phone bill and tracked me down for the money to cover my long-distance chargers. Did we really talk that much?
I barely made it that semester, and before entering my senior year of college, I quit school and joined a band back home. It was a ministry opportunity, and I was enjoying playing my drums for Jesus, but even He knew I was clinging to the woman who would soon be my wife. I could not be away from her. I still have trouble when I must be apart from her for a period of time. Our lives together have been fruitful. Three children, a daughter and son in law, and a beautiful granddaughter. Ministry has flourished through my family and has impacted so many. We have been missionaries together and apart. We have been a pastor’s family, and now they are doing the ministry gig on their own. When I was racking up a long-distance phone bill in the 80’s, every cent was worth it as I look at what God has done in all these years later.
Let’s get back to my cousins. The last time I saw them was at my father’s funeral a little over 5 years ago. Before that, it had been a few years since we connected. Yes, we still love each other and have fond memories, but there is no clinging. That would be weird. They have their lives, and I have mine. It would be a challenge to even name all of their kids. (Some of you are trying to do that right now. It's ok.) But who I have chosen to cling to and who have I built a life with. God has honored us, and a future has been set that we are so thankful for today.
Orpah in our story loved Naomi, but she wasn’t clinging to her. She gave the affectionate and loving kiss. The honor was there. She would miss Naomi, but the kiss was one that tells the tale of a life going in another direction. There would be no future together. Ruth loved Naomi too, and I am sure she gave her honor with a kiss as well, but the Bible is clear that Ruth was a clinger. With the clinging was the message to Naomi that together they had a future and Ruth would follow her wherever she would go, even back to a land that made Ruth a stranger, knowing only the woman she promised to follow.
The story is amazing when you read this short chapter in the Bible. Ruth clung and the future begun! She would find favor with Boaz, the great, great, great, great grandson of Perez who was in the line of Judah. Guess who followed Boaz in the family line. Obed. Obed fathered Jesse, who was the father of King David. Yep, you get it. David was a man after God’s heart and, in that line, Jesus came to the earth. An incredible future and legacy awaited Ruth because she clung instead of just give the affectionate kiss. You can say she followed when Orpah left.
When God brought this to my attention, I could not help but see the parallels of our relationship with Jesus. How many of us kiss instead of cling? We are affectionate and we love Jesus, but are we following Him? Is our future because of Him, or are we attempting to try to do it our way because His way is too hard. Think about that. When others were leaving Jesus, the disciples did not. Peter told Jesus the reason. Only He had the words of life. We become what we cling to, not who we kiss. Judas kissed Jesus and hung himself later. Yes, I know, an ugly picture. We do not see Orpah again. We do not know what happened to her, but we do know what happened with Ruth. Cling to Jesus!