The Other Ruth

I’ve always been one of those kids who has major problems with her middle name. (I guess I shouldn’t have made that gender-specific because lots of guys don’t like their middle names either. Like my brother. But I don’t know why because he truly has the coolest middle name ever.)

It’s a perfectly normal middle name; I shouldn’t be so bothered by it.

I was named after my great-grandmother. Her name was Mary Ruth. Twin got her first name as a first name, and I got her middle name as a middle name. That’s just how it went.

(So, if you didn’t catch that, my middle name is Ruth.)

Now, if I was just named after my great-grandmother, that’d be super. She’s an amazing woman, and I really admire everything I know personally and I’ve heard about her. I’m truly honored to be named after such a strong, courageous, smart, beautiful woman of God.

I have always had problems with The Other Ruth, though.

See, when people learn my middle name, they don’t know I’m named after my great-grandmother. They automatically go, “Oh! Like Ruth from the Bible!” And, of course, I say, “Yes.”

What I really want to say is, “No. I’m named after my great-grandmother – an amazing woman I greatly admire who actually did something with her life. I’m not named after a woman whose only claim to fame is that she got married and gave birth to the line of David.”

Apparently, though, you’re not supposed to say things like that to people when they’re just being nice. And some people don’t like you talking about The Other Ruth that way.

I never understood The Other Ruth’s story. Sure, I read it. It was taught to me in Sunday school. I understood that it was about faithfulness and leaving behind everything you know for someone you love and family and caring for each other. I understood that.

I understood that there must have been struggle there. Moving’s never easy. I understood a vague concept of hardship. They were pretty alone for a while, after all.

Until very recently, though, it was, for me, just a story about a woman moving to a new place and getting married and having kids. That was it. I found nothing to admire in The Other Ruth.

Last Friday morning, The Other Ruth and I had a long heart-to-heart. I came to understand some things about her I just wasn’t grasping before. The Other Ruth explained some things to me, and they really sank in this time.

Last Friday morning (all of last week, really), I was having a really hard time. I had moved back to school, and I was miserable. I didn’t want to be back in Cookeville; I wanted to be home with my family and friends where it’s comfortable and familiar. I had community back home. I belonged there. I absolutely, positively, decidedly did not want to be in Cookeville.

I felt like I didn’t belong in Cookeville (at least not anymore). I felt all alone except for Twin, who was also having a really hard time. We spent a lot of our time taking care of each other because we were both miserable.

In the middle of all that – while I was complaining to God about not wanting to be where I was and not wanting to be nice to an also freaking-out Mary and not wanting to take the super hard tests I had coming up – The Other Ruth popped up.

“Read my story again,” she demanded.

Always ready for an excuse to not study, I told her I would and whipped out my Bible.

And almost fell out of my chair.

The Other Ruth was showing me up.

Her husband died. She left everything behind. She went to a completely foreign place where she probably wasn’t even welcomed because she was a Moabitess (or whatever the proper title for her is). She had to work to feed her and her mother-in-law.

She was humble. She was gracious. She was kind. She was patient. She was courageous. She was obedient. She was brave.

Yeah, she ended up getting married, but that’s not the point.

She stayed strong when she was somewhere, I imagine, she didn’t really want to be all the time. She took care of and was kind to her mother-in-law even though that probably wasn’t very easy all the time. She was brave and strong and did what she had to do, knowing, the whole time, she wasn’t alone.

The Lord was with her. He took care of her. He sent her the people she needed when she needed them. He worked in her life. She stayed faithful. And, then look, she got to be the mom to the whole line of David.

I am nothing like The Other Ruth. I am nowhere near the amazing person she was. I am, after all, complaining because I get to be at school and further my education so I can do what I want with my life.

I have so many things to learn from The Other Ruth. I need to learn to be content where I am. I need to learn to be brave in the face of things I don’t want to do. I need to learn to be humble. I need to learn to graciously take care of others around me who are struggling too. I need to learn to let God use me.

I’m proud to be named after The Other Ruth. She was a strong, courageous, smart, beautiful woman of God. I think I’m okay with my middle name now.

Probably. There’s still a tiny bit of me that thinks it’s a weird name, though.

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Firm Foundation

Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with depression and a bit of social anxiety. It’s a dark shadow that lurks somewhere in the back of my brain, waiting for the right moment to come and smother me.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t fight the depression. It consumed me. The shadows filled my soul and were the only thing supporting me. That was a bad time.

I don’t know how much you know about shadows, but I know quite a bit. They’re insubstantial. They don’t really support anything. They block the light. They leave you cold. They smother you. And, once they’ve taken over a place or person, it takes a really powerful light to get them to vanish.

Dear 6 Beautiful Readers, because you actually read what I write, I thought you might know me well enough to learn that about me.

Technically, I have Major Depressive Disorder. I know that the depression is the result of a neurotransmitter imbalance in my brain. My norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels can get really messed up. But I can’t leave it at that.

If I convince myself that I’m only struggling against a neurotransmitter disorder (something I can’t do anything about), I give up. And I can’t do that. I tell myself that it just can’t be helped, and that’s when I get myself into trouble.

I don’t take meds – I probably should, but it’s never really come up. Even if they were offered, I would probably refuse them. I always forget to take medicine, so it wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

I have learned, however, through my fight with this, what exactly I have to do to bring the light back into my life.

It got summed up so well for me today. It all comes down to your foundation. Today, at church, the preacher talked a lot about Luke 6:46-49. It goes like this:

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:
48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Basically, if you don’t have a strong foundation, when the bad things in life hit you, you’re going to collapse. But, if you put your strength in the Lord, if you make Him the Cornerstone, if you build your life on His Word, if you surround yourself with like-minded people, you can pull through.

My belief that my God is strong enough to handle absolutely anything keeps me going. I ground myself in The Word and His promises of protection, healing, love, compassion, mercy, and grace. I know that, when I take a flying leap into His arms, He’ll hold me close and shelter me from the storms. He is the ultimate light. There is nothing brighter than Him. The shadows flee at a hint of His presence.

For me, community is a major part of my foundation. This is made very difficult by my social anxiety. Depression, however, is something you can’t fight alone.

I’m really private about it, though. I have trouble telling my friends and the people who support me when I need help. That’s not a good thing. I know I can’t do it on my own, but, for some reason, I always try to.

Even when I don’t go to them and explain what’s going on, though, I can still draw strength from them. Surrounding myself with fellow Christians, people who can help me stay on the right track, is imperative for my survival.

Sometimes, though, the depression sneaks up on me. I get really stressed or exhausted or run smack dab into one of my triggers, and I’m in the middle of it before I know it. That’s why it’s so important to already know The Word – to have that foundation firmly in place.

At that point, I don’t have the strength or inclination to open up a Bible. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to reach out to the people around me for help. I don’t want to leave my bed. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to see anyone’s face.

I do, however, have a part of my soul, firmly rooted in The Word and God’s Truth, that absolutely refuses to give up. It sends whimpering, plaintive cries up to heaven. It knows I can’t stand on my own feet, so it begs my Father to pick me up and hold me close. It whispers the verses I’ve memorized in my ear so I start to remember who and Whose I am. I believe that’s the Holy Spirit, strengthened by the food I feed it.

This is my foundation. This is what I build my house on. It provides me with shelter, and, when the storms knock my house down, it’s what I rebuild on. This is my shield. This is my protection. This is how I fight the darkness in my life.

My depression is more than a neurotransmitter disorder. There is hope. It is something I can fight. I ground myself in the truth of my Savior, and the darkness cannot hold on. It vanishes.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”