Posted on Monday, Jul 20, 2020 by Scott Savage
Aron Ralston made a terrible decision.
On April 26, 2003, Ralston went hiking alone. As he descended within a slot canyon, a boulder he was climbing down unexpectedly became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall.
Going hiking alone wasn’t the decision that doomed Ralston. The fateful decision occurred when Ralston neglected to inform anyone of his hiking plans, and he brought no way to call for help.
For five and a half days, Ralston was trapped against a sandstone wall with an 800-pound boulder pinning his right arm. Using a pocketknife, he was able to amputate his right arm so he could break free and hike several miles back to civilization where he was found and taken to a hospital.
This incredible story of survival was told in Ralston’s book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and later in the 2010 movie, 127 Hours, starring James Franco.
We can draw many lessons from Ralston’s harrowing brush with death. Like Ralston, there are times where we unwisely choose to go at life alone in voluntary isolation when we could have invited others along for safety and companionship.
Yet, there are other times where the choice we make to be isolated is very intentional; the result of hurt and pain. We often undertake adventures alone because our pain keeps others at bay.
This is the story of Naomi, told in the Old Testament book of Ruth.
In Ruth 1:1, we meet Naomi as she is leaving Israel for Moab due to famine. When we meet Naomi, she has a husband and two sons.
Just a few verses later, we watch as Naomi’s husband, Elimelech dies, along with each of Naomi’s two sons. In that culture at that time, becoming a widow and losing your sons put a woman in a vulnerable, even hopeless position.
As the famine in Israel is waning, Naomi prepares to return with no husband and no sons. She left Israel full of hope, and she is returning bitter and angry. Upon returning to Israel, Naomi demanded that she be called Mara, “for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.”
Naomi’s story seemed hopeless on the surface, but Naomi didn’t return to Israel bitter and alone.
Naomi had a secret weapon she didn’t know about; her daughter-in-law Ruth. The book of Ruth offers us great wisdom about relationships in the form of Ruth’s bond with Naomi.
1. We need loyal companions.
When we’re headed for an adventure, we need loyal companions. Naomi didn’t know it, but she needed Ruth. Naomi convinced one of her son’s widows, Orpah, to return to Moab. But Ruth would not be so easily convinced. Ruth committed to staying with Naomi, no matter what. In Ruth 1:16, she tells Naomi, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
We all need people who are loyal like Ruth, especially during the typical hazards adventures bring.
2. We need friends who aren’t afraid of our pain.
We need people who will stay with us even when we’re struggling to let them into our pain. In Ruth 1:18, we read that “when Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.”
Ruth’s determination convinced Naomi that her pain was seen, but it was not too much for Ruth. Many of us have experienced people who weren’t intimidated by our pain and our struggles. People who love us even as we try to process our past hurts and hardships are incredible gifts.
3. We need fellow adventurers who expect things to get hard.
Life is an adventure, and friendship amid adventure is not for the faint of heart. We need people who will stay with us even when things get hard. Ruth was one of those friends to Naomi. She was down for even the worst of times. “Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us.” It was if Ruth was expecting dark days and saying, “bring it!”
If you’ve never read the book of Ruth, I’d heartily recommend it. You could read the entire book while drinking a big cup of coffee. Ruth’s devotion to Naomi ultimately brought Boaz's attention, who provided them with food and secured their futures as their kinsman-redeemer. Ruth’s fierce loyalty to Naomi amidst incredible adversity led them both out of poverty and into provision and peace.
We may not lose family like Naomi did. We may not lose our husband like Ruth did. We may not lose our arm like Aron Ralston did. But in our adventure called life, things will get hard, boulders will fall, and losses will happen.
Our ability to survive and even thrive in those moments will be based upon how isolated we are and how the people around us keep us open to and aware of God’s grace at work in our midst.
So before you get your arm stuck under an 800-pound boulder, seek out fellow adventurers and let in those who show the commitment to your life that Ruth showed to Naomi’s. Allow them to come along with you.
None of us should adventure alone.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer who believes he has the best last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He is the creator of the Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com.