Although I grew up in the church, I've never been someone who is big on church clichés. No matter how popular a phrase might've been, I was the kind of person who didn't simply hop on the bandwagon; I would research things first. That's why I know saying, "This too shall pass" is nowhere in the Bible (it's actually attached to Hebrew and Persian folklore). Or, when I hear a Christian tell a little girl to be like Queen Esther, I often think to myself, "So, you know she spent the night with a pagan king and couldn't reveal that she was Jewish before she married him, right?" (Esther 2:12-14) This means that he probably had sex with her, just like all of those other women that he was "interviewing", so she probably wasn't a virgin on her wedding night. And then there's Ruth. More specifically, Ruth and Boaz. Pretty much every time I hear or read a woman say, "I'm just waiting on my Boaz", I find myself either saying or thinking, "And that just might be why you're still waiting, sis."
Waiting for your Boaz. If there's one thing that I think far too many of us are way too guilty of, it's romanticizing the Bible. Was Boaz a good man? All evidence certainly points to that. But for those of you who wants a man to pursue you and work hard for you, eh, Boaz isn't really your guy.
You'd be better off declaring that you're "waiting for Jacob" since he actually put in hard years of labor (technically, 14 of them—Genesis 29:20-35) for Rachel. Hmph. Even then, some might say that was karma because Jacob tricked his father, Isaac and stole from his brother, Esau "thanks" to his mother, Rebekah's little scheme and then his mother's brother, Laban turned around and tricked him. See what I mean? On the surface, does it seem like a beautiful gesture to have a man toil for your hand in marriage for years on end? Maybe. But if Jacob and his mom hadn't been so sneaky and conniving, perhaps he wouldn't have ended up with a wife he didn't want first (Leah) or he wouldn't have had to work at all.
That's why, I think it's so important to know what you're saying and why you're saying it before you actually do. And when it comes to waiting for your Boaz, as you're about to see in a sec, every time you put that into the Universe (Proverbs 18:21), you are saying more than a mouthful.
Naomi Was the Mastermind
The Book of Ruth really is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It's so rich that there's not enough time to get into all of the details. If you want a blow-by-blow account of each chapter, The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules is a pretty stellar read. For now, let's just go over a very brief recap. Naomi was a woman who had two sons that died, leaving behind two widows—Ruth and Orpah (fun fact: Oprah was named after Orpah but her aunt misspelled her name). When Naomi decided to return back to her homeland, Ruth went with her (Ruth 1). With no money and no idea what to do next, Ruth went to glean in a field of one of Naomi's relatives. His name was Boaz.
Boaz was kind to Ruth, no doubt. But other than allowing her to gather as much food as she could handle, he didn't do much else. It was Naomi who started to devise a plan in hopes of getting Boaz and Ruth together. First, that Ruth not go into any other field but Boaz's (Ruth 2:22-23). Next that she do the following:
"One day Naomi said to Ruth, 'My daughter, it's time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he's been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don't let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do."—Ruth 3:1-4(NLT)
Nowhere in the Book of Ruth does it say that Boaz asked Ruth out or even that he was pining away for her. It was Naomi who said, "Oh, Boaz? Yeah, I know him. He's my late husband's people. Here's how you can really get his attention." Bookmark that as we move on.
Ruth Did Most of the Legwork
After hearing Naomi's instructions, Ruth simply replied with, "I will do everything you say." (Ruth 3:5—NLT) She then got to work. Literally. Ruth applied some essential oils. She put on her best clothes. She went to see Boaz, uninvited, when, as the New Living Translation of Ruth 3:7 tells us, Boaz had drank and was "in good spirits". It was then that Ruth went into his sleeping space. Now peep what the author of the book that I referenced earlier writes about this part of their journey:
"Clearly, the storyteller has loaded the story with sexual overtones. Language full of double-meanings, the isolated setting, a man and woman alone in darkness, Ruth covering Boaz's "feet" [which some Jewish scholars say could be a euphemism for penis]—all combine to create an aura of ambiguity intended to leave the reader wondering how much of Boaz she uncovers and what Boaz will do with this interesting and unexpected opportunity when he wakes up."—pg. 147
Y'all, Ruth straight-up seduced this man. Only Ruth, Boaz and God Himself know how far things went, but I'll just say that it's not the kind of "date" that you'll hear a lot of pastors or mothers of the church recommend that folks go on. Still, it's in the Bible. And no, Boaz did not come onto Ruth. Ruth came onto Boaz. And there is absolutely no indication in the story that if Naomi had not thought the plan up and Ruth had not followed through that Boaz wouldn't have remained being anything more than "a really nice guy".
So, when you say that you are "waiting on your Boaz"—what are you saying exactly? That you're waiting for a nice man to come along, period? Or that you are waiting for a good man like Boaz to pursue you? If it's the former, I get it. If it's the latter and you intend to not put some real sweat equity into the dynamic, like I said…you could be waiting for a really long time.
A part of the reason why Ruth is my girl is because, like the subtitle of the book states, she didn't follow the rules. She didn't think that only a man should "pursue" a woman in order for a relationship to work (Adam didn't pursue Eve; King Xerses didn't pursue Esther. Both couples still had really powerful and biblical love stories—Genesis 2 and Esther 2). Ruth was bold. Ruth was forward. Ruth was a risk taker. And yes, it paid off. Big time.
Boaz Was a Gentleman but Definitely NOT the Initiator
If you continue to read through the Book of Ruth, you'll see that once Ruth stepped out and made her presence known (and then some) to Boaz, he protected her throughout the rest of the night and then figured out how to make her his wife. Again, all of this wasn't about love and romance, though. She was a Moabite (pagan). Plus, back then, women didn't spend the night with men who weren't their husbands. According to the culture, she could've been severely punished, even stoned to death. Yet, remember how Naomi said that she was gonna find Ruth her own home? Naomi knew all of this. There must've been a part of her that knew Boaz may not ever make the first move. So, she came up with a way to expedite everything. In other words, the story isn't so much "romantic" as it was calculated on Naomi's part and somewhat obligatory on Boaz's. Not to say that he didn't care for Ruth, but again, if you put culture into all of this, his sudden "swiftness" (which ironically is what Boaz means in the Hebrew language; Ruth means "friend") was to protect this woman and ultimately, quite possibly, save her life. He wasn't so much "in love" as he was being noble.
If you continue to read the story (there are four chapters), Boaz does some negotiating for Ruth's hand in marriage, they get married, have sex and conceive a son by the name of Obed who eventually becomes King David's grandfather and someone who is directly in the bloodline of Christ. It's a beautiful story. Yet again, it's not so much because of Boaz. Boaz was reactive. It was Naomi and Ruth who were proactive.
Here's another thing to consider. Remember, the Bible was translated into English. It's originally an eastern culture book with a ton of Hebrew characters in it. According to the Midrash (which is basically a collection of Jewish commentaries), the Shir ha-Shirim Zutta, Boaz and Ruth conceived Obed on their wedding night. Guess what happened the following day, though. Boaz died (he was considerably older than Ruth so, it's quite possible).
Yep. So, think long and hard—are you waiting for a good man who you'll have to seduce, who marries you, partly out of obligation, only for him to die the next day and leave you to raise the son the two of you made alone? Are you really?
Let God Write Your Own Love Story
Y'all, I'm not here to rain on your parade, I'm really not. I'm just here to enforce one of my favorite Message Version verses in the Bible—"It's best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it." (Ecclesiastes 7:18—Message) While it can be tempting to treat the coupledom stories of the Bible like they are fairy tales, at the end of the day, they are simply real people, having real experiences, where we are fortunate enough to see how God works in the midst of their good and not-so-good decisions. Their love stories are not told so that we'll mimic them so much as we'll remember that God has His hand in our life, just as much as He did in theirs. Oh, and so we can see what might be a good idea and…what might not.
Maybe at another time, I'll share why the fact that Ruth pursued Boaz doesn't bother me in the least. Yeah, another verse that could stand to be broken all the way down is "he who finds a wife" (Proverbs 18:22); especially since "find" means things like "to come upon by chance", to "realize" and to "consider". Also, since the very first love story did not consist of a man pursuing at all. Adam was asleep. God did it all (words to live by—Genesis 2). I'm simply saying that no, I'm not out here "waiting on my Boaz". I want my husband and I want it to be my individual journey. That was Ruth's. I want my own.
Some women have the "I'm waiting on my Boaz" so deeply ingrained into them that they will say it until the cows—or their husband—comes home (whichever comes first). But as for you, I hope this gave you a little something to think about. Words are powerful. Try and not put things, even "spiritual" things, into the world, just because everyone else might be saying it. Seek out the truth and reality about matters for yourself. You might just realize that you don't want what you thought you did. You might not want to wait on a Boaz. You might want God to simply lead you to your own husband in a totally different way. And sis, at the end of the day, I actually think that's a good thing. A really good thing.
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Originally published on March 8, 2020