Forty women: 24. Ruth

Sometimes things don’t go, after all, from bad to worse.

Sometimes when your first husband dies, when you leave your home and your country and follow your mother-in-law down the long road to her former place, when you arrive and have nowhere to stay and no food to eat, sometimes people will be kind. Sometimes they will let you glean for wheat in their fields. Sometimes they will tell their workers to leave plenty for you to find.

Sometimes you’ll find a man who will protect you from other men. He will show you where you can be safe and make sure you get water to drink without risking abuse or assault.

Sometimes a man will have heard your story and honour you for it. He will recognise your kindness, your loyalty and your faith and praise God for you.

Sometimes an invitation to share his lunch will just be an invitation to bread and wine, and no favours will be demanded in return.

And sometimes, you’ll do what your mother-in-law tells you, and risk everything, going to lie in his bed and ask for his protection, and he still won’t take advantage. He’ll still show you honour and kindness. He’ll generously send you home, with a skirtful of grain. And then he’ll claim you lawfully, publicly, graciously acting as your kinsman-redeemer.

Sometimes you’ll be given a second chance, a second husband. You’ll bear him a child, a son. And your son Obed, will be the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.