The Dream Keepers
May 14, 2017
I remember an occasion when I was eyewitness to a longtime friendship on the verge of coming to an end. One friend was in the car business and the other was a physician. In turn, over the years, a faithfulness to one another had developed that included a large degree of “customer loyalty” if you will. What I mean by that phrase is that the doctor bought all of his cars from his friend the car salesman and the car salesman and his wife saw the physician for health care needs. One day, however, the doctor decided that he would rather have a Chevrolet than a Ford. He didn’t think it was that big of a deal to his friend the Ford dealer so he didn’t bother to tell him what he planned to do. He went out, bought a new Chevrolet and let his old friend discover what he had done when he happened to bump into him in town.
The problem was that what the doctor assumed was not a big deal was in fact a very, very big deal to the car salesman. That one decision, signaled a fracture in their relationship. Again, one major way they they both measured their friendship was in their individual loyalties to one another.
Faithfulness, loyalty and a willingness to stick with things means a lot to most of us. We all crave people in our lives who we can count on no matter what. And, we need these sorts of folks in our lives even more than ever particularly in a world where people seem ready to jump ship at the first sign of trouble, after the first disagreement of any time the wind blows in a direction they don’t like in our relationships, in our churches, in business and in the affairs of every day life.
On this Mother’s Day, I want to suggest to us that there are few better examples of loyalty in the Bible than the one we find exhibited in our text for today about Ruth and Naomi. And, I also want to suggest that it should not come as a surprise to us that the example of loyalty in this story comes our way in the form of a female. For, I would point out to us that one of the great contributions of many of the important women in our lives is their ability and willingness to remain committed and faithful even when many others are tempted to back away or to give up on us on the life situations that we sometimes find ourselves involved in.
The story told here in the book of Ruth is rather straightforward and simple. Namoi and her family had moved from Israel, their homeland, to Moab which was the homeland of Ruth in order to escape a famine. There in Moab, Naomi, her husband and her boys had built a fairly good life. They had survived the famine, found stability, built a home and it was there that the boys even found wives for themselves. One married a young lady named Orpah and the other married Ruth. Over time Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. But, she still had her boys, Mahlon and Killion. Then, however, both of Naomi’s boys died too and life began to change.
Naomi was now stuck in Moab which was home but not her homeland. Yes, she still had her daughters in law Orpah and Ruth whom she loved but no one was near by whom she was related to by blood. Since days were now better in Israel and the famine was over, Naomi decided it was time to go home. It was time to go back to her people, time to be back in her homeland to live out her days.
As she started on her journey, Naomi made a decision. Her daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth, had been good to her. They had been faithful, supportive and had continued to be there for her even after her boys had died. But, she was going home and they were both Moab girls. They needed to stay in their homeland just as she needed to go to hers. They needed to build lives of their own, have a chance at finding a second love and hopefully one day children of their own. In turn, as Naomi begins to leave Moab, she gives them her blessing and her encouragement to go and begin new lives too. It was the obvious and right thing for her to do.
Orpah jumps at the chance. But Ruth does not. No one could or should blame Orpah for her decision. What she did was right and it was good. What Ruth does, however, is to go above and beyond the call of duty. She is faithful even when no one expected her to be and that is exactly what makes her story so profound.
Again, we all yearn for people in our lives who are as faithful as the day is long because such behavior is very, very rare in our world today. But, what really catches our attention, what really inspires us, what truly changes our lives and the lives of others are those who remain loyal when no one expects that sort of faithfulness and commitment. Its the Ruth-like loyalty that truly catches our attention and that inspires us.
As I have thought about Ruth this week and the way the she as a female exhibited such faithfulness, I have found myself thinking about a family that lived in our little town when I was growing up. The Chitwoods had three children – two boys and a girl. What I remember is that they were a regular family whose children all had big dreams. One wanted to be a doctor, one wanted to pursue a life in music and the other wanted to play college football. They were dreamers and lots of people questioned their dreams. One dream seemed a hard push for the family financially, another seemed unlikely because of the odds and the third seemed rather unrealistic because that particular child didn’t really seem to have the gifts that were required to achieve their goals. What I remember however is just how faithful their parents were to them and their goals and in particular how faithful Ms. Chitwood was. She supported them every step of the way, believed in them when few others did and had a dogged determination to help them pursue their goals as their number one fan long after others had given up or walked away. She wasn’t unrealistic, she wasn’t afraid to offer her gentle advice or to disagree but boy was she faithful.
What I find remarkable is what happened. One of the children became a doctor. A second child was the drum major of one of the university marching bands in the SEC and is now a Music Minister and the third played college football. None of them, none of them would have done those things had it not been for their moms faithfulness. She in essence was the keeper of their dreams even when they themselves likely doubted them.
Faithfulness is a rare but important word in our world today. Yet, we all need it from others and we need to give it to others. We need folks in our corner who believe in us, love us and are true to us no matter what. And, we need to be that type of parent, spouse, son, daughter, friend, church goer, employer or employee to the main people in our lives. Hear me – even when our world no longer requires such behavior or believes in it, we still desperately need dream keepers in our lives.
Ruth’s story is wonderful but equally important is the reminder that it has also long been seen as an image of Christ’s faithfulness. Jesus ultimately is the one who exhibits a faithfulness that even surpasses that of Ruth. No one, no one will love us as faithfully, stick with us as determinedly or be committed to us as unfailingly as will Jesus. Our Lord is much more faithful to us than we ever are to him. He loves us when we do not love in return. His care is never to be questioned.
Do you remember the childhood activity of catching fireflies or lightening bugs that the coming of summer makes many of us recall. Do you remember how you poked holes in the lid of a mason jar or old Duke’s mayonnaise container? Do you remember capturing a few of those little creatures, putting them in the jar and then watching how their little bodies continued to glow? It would be dark and then a moment later their light would flash reminding you that they were still there, still alive, still capable of light?
The same thing is happening as we are faithful to one another and as God is faithful to us. We are capturing each others dreams, goals and hopes for life – we are holding on to them for one another and we are reminding each other in the dark times that they are still there, alive, burning and vibrant even when life’s dark places or hard times suggest otherwise. We are not going away and neither are they. That is the beauty of our faithfulness to each other and that is the wonder of God’s commitment to us as our heavenly father to you and I, his children on this good earth. Amen.