I am not what happens to me.

I’ve just finished the book of Ruth, and am on to 1st Samuel.

But for you, I just want to park at this sentence in Ruth. It is spoken by a woman who has left her home during a famine. She’s gone somewhere else with her husband and two sons. While away, her husband and both sons die, leaving her alone with two daughters-in law.

Hearing that there is now food at home, Naomi heads back home. Only one of the two in-laws goes with her. And when she hits town, she says this interesting sentence, “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. … The LORD has afflicted me.”

Now, the story is not really about Naomi, and most teachers bounce right on to Ruth’s story. After all, it’s a lovely romance about a poor outsider who marries the rich relative. Who wouldn’t move on?

But Naomi’s word’s struck me.

Did you notice? Naomi has let what happened TO HER, become her identity. Her name, Naomi, means pleasant. But Mara, the name she chooses means bitter.

Okay, so she’s had a really rough time of it.

But where is her focus? She’s stuck on what’s missing. What’s happened. AND, she is blaming GOD for it all. “HE HAS AFFLICTED ME,” she says.

I’m thinking, she could have come back with this as her focus. “At long last I am home. I have a daughter-in-law who loves me so much, she won’t leave me. I will end my days with my family around me, in my own land, with my own people.”

Instead, she says, “I am one who has loved and lost.”

It would be like us saying these things:

“I am left.” (her husband left her)
“I am infertile.”
“I am a bad habit.”
“I am multiple sclerosis.”
“I am incest.”
“I am lost my job.”
“I am failure.” (I missed a goal)

Truly, we are NOT what happens TO us. And, unlike poor Naomi — who has suffered enormous loss — we can choose to be grateful people, men and women who are overcomers. People who say these kinds of things:

“I am loved by God.”
“I have been chosen to mentor rather than mother.”
“I am an overcomer.”
“I am a survivor.”
“I am learning.”
“I am reframing.”

Though God, in the scripture, makes no comment on Naomi’s expression to her old friends, I would have to say this:

If you look at yourself as no more than what happens TO YOU, you give away all opportunity for change and growth. No wonder Naomi was bitter!

Think about it.

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