I am "blogging through" the book of Ruth.
To see the whole journey thus far, click on the button below.
Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”
- Ruth 3:1-4
Every time I’ve read this passage over the past few weeks, I’ve thought of Harry Potter.
That’s nutty, I know – but stick with me, please. Do you remember the Mirror of Erised in The Chamber of Secrets? Harry, the orphan, saw his family in the mirror. Ron Weasley, the sixth of seven children, saw himself receiving awards and accolades all on his own. Dumbledore explained to Harry that the Mirror of Erised “shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts” (p. 213 in the hardback U.S. edition).
image source: Harry Potter Wiki
I think Naomi just revealed what she would have seen in the Mirror of Erised. Her heart’s desire was to see Ruth, her beloved daughter-in-law, settled into a home where she would be protected, provided for, cared for, and loved.
Here’s what’s obvious to me about this: First, Naomi was not at the center of her own deepest desire. While I do think she saw herself in the picture, it was clearly Ruth who stood at center stage.
Second, if we could take the Mirror of Erised with us back through the first two chapters, I think we’d find that it always showed slight variations of the same thing. We can be reasonably certain that when the story began, Naomi envisioned Ruth and Orpah – along with their husbands, her sons – with smiling, chubby-cheeked sons of their own. When that dream died along with Mahlon and Chilion, Naomi desired for Ruth and Orpah to find security with new husbands (see 1:8-9). Since Ruth refused to follow the road back to her mother’s house, which was the way Naomi thought would be best for her earlier, Naomi dreamed up a new way for Ruth to find family and fulfillment. Never do we see Naomi expressing hopes and dreams for herself.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, Naomi was not content merely to dream; she made a plan and put it into action. I think she would have understood Dumbledore’s wise words to Harry: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” (p. 214).
What’s not obvious to me is exactly what this says to us, today. Having picked up along this journey the theme of change, I would love to be able to say something wise and profound about what happens to our dreams when our world changes. Although Naomi’s dream seems to have adapted to the changes in her life, I know from experience and observation that that isn’t always possible. In fact, sometimes the major life change one experiences is the death of a dream. And sometimes dreams need to change or even be cast away completely. Not all dreams and desires are good for us.
I’ll use myself as an example. For much of my life, could I have looked into the Mirror of Erised I would have seen myself with a different body. Probably taller, proportioned to suit the tastes of more traditional beauty, and above all else, with different skin. My eczema was the bane of my existence, so my deepest, most desperate desire was to be rid of it.
But this was not a healthy thing to have at the center of my heart’s desires. Because of it, every glance into a real mirror was a disappointment. Every scratch or blemish on my skin left a scar in my heart. My self-worth was based on a bankrupt currency. My relationship with the God who created me suffered immensely. It’s no wonder I became insecure and depressed.
Although I had been told repeatedly by my pediatricians that I would someday outgrow it, that turned out not to be true. When I began to realize that as a young adult, my whole world changed as my dream died. My life was plunged into disorientation and chaos. The saddest, darkest, most frightening period of my life thus far (and I hope for always) spanned the time in which I reluctantly recognized the death of my dream and struggled to accept that I will never be done with the tricky and tiresome job of caring for my “defective skin.” (Those were the words of one doctor. Even though I knew it, it still felt like a slap in the face when he said it. But then again, he spoke so inordinately loudly that almost everything he said felt like a slap in the face. I only went to him two or three times before looking for another doctor.) I didn’t know if I could survive the amputation of my dead dream. If my happiness and self-worth were based on my skin, and my skin would never really be well, could I ever be happy? Could I ever feel any real pride in myself? (You see why I needed counseling!)
(By the way, this was a long span of time, one that I am in some ways still coming out of.)
So what can we take from this passage about our hearts’ desires? Perhaps that, just as the book of Ruth gives us occasional glimpses into Naomi’s Mirror, we too should look into our own Mirrors of Erised every once in a while. We need to know ourselves well enough to recognize the desires dwelling (or perhaps lurking) at our core. But just as Dumbledore warned Harry, we can’t linger there. If the dream we see is not a good one, we need to pluck it out and find something better to long for. If it is a good dream, like Naomi’s, we need to get busy making it a reality.
I’m curious: does this passage of scripture say anything in particular to you?