Andrew Compton, a recent Westminster graduate and husband of our fabulous organist, Pam, preached for the first time today in our church. He chose the Book of Ruth for his text. It left me thinking, a lot of former Assembly members are like Naomi in chapter one. She and her family went to Moab because of a famine. Any of us felt like we were starving in a church before we found the Assembly? Then eventually she goes back home, the people welcome her–“Naomi! Good to see you again!”, and she says, “Don’t call me Naomi anymore,”–which means pleasant–“Call me Mara”–which means bitter–“because God has dealt me bitter blows.” Then she says something, with bitterness, that a lot of us have felt but maybe not said aloud, “I went out full and came home empty.” Been feeling like that sometimes since you left the Assembly? Quite a reversal from when you thought the Assembly was going to be so fulfilling. Naomi says, “Why should you call me Pleasant when the Lord has turned his back on me and left me desolate!”
Naomi’s sons had married Moabite women, something forbidden by God for Israelite men. Ruth, the Moabite widow of one of Namoi’s sons, had returned to Israel with her. Her Israelite friends and neighbors must have been delighted (not!) to have a Moabite in their midst. Do you ever feel like you left the Assembly with extra baggage you don’t want? My baggage is my “mental illnesses” (to quote Anne Lamott)–anxiety, guilt, depression, perfectionism.
But, of course, the great thing about this story is that this very Moabite woman became an ancestor of King David and so of Christ. When Boaz married Ruth, he redeemed the inheritance of Naomi’s husband, so when Ruth had her first son, the women of the town said to Naomi, “God has blessed you! He will be your restorer and sustainer!” So you never know. The very things you most deplore about your post-Assembly situation might very likely be things God plans to turn for good. I can say my baggage of depression is a good thing, in one respect, because it forces me to use thankfulness every day as one of means to quell it.
You can hear Andrew’s sermon in streaming audio at http://christreformedinfo.squarespace.com/.