In our home growing up, photographs were often stored in shoeboxes that fit under the bed or up in the closet. Now and then, those boxes would come out, and we would begin our trip down memory lane. Scenes in black and white took me back to my roots, rekindling bygone feelings and reminding me of precious stories. Pictures and the memories they evoke help us to keep our story alive.
In the 85 verses of the book of Ruth we follow one family and a foreign woman named Ruth as they eek out a living during the difficult days of the judges – a time of moral chaos and national instability, described in the last verse of Judges by the frightening words, everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). The story takes unexpected twists and turns that fire the imagination and soothe the soul.
Ruth is for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another pounds their faith. It is for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it is a story for people who can’t imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives.
The book tells of Ruth’s accepting the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her own. In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth tells Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It shows the loyalty and love that one woman has for another. I was reminded of this verse the other day when I was watching Fried Green Tomatoes, my favorite movie. Idgie initially resists Ruth’s attempts at friendship, but gradually a deep attachment develops between them. Ruth leaves Whistle Stop to marry Frank Bennett and moves to Valdosta, Georgia. Idgie tries to forget her but later, after receiving a letter with the Bible verses Ruth 1:16-17 included in it, visits her house to find her pregnant and subject to physical abuse from Frank. Against his wishes and violent attempts to stop her, she returns to Whistle Stop with Idgie, where her baby, a boy whom she names Buddy, Jr., is born.
Both the story of the biblical Ruth and the story of Idgie and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes are powerful stories of women. They give us a lesson of love and loyalty that we can’t forget. If you’ve never seen Fried Green Tomatoes, you should. It’s a lovely movie.