I have to confess that Naomi wasn’t my favorite biblical woman to write about in Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. I struggled with so much sadness and grief when writing about her life! Not because of Naomi herself – though she was so bitter she actually renamed herself Mara (a Hebrew word for bitter).
Naomi struggled with a dark, heavy load of loss and grief. She lost her husband after they moved to Moab—which was hostile territory for them as Israelites. Her husband, Elimelek, died and left her alone in a land of people who worshipped cruel gods. Naomi didn’t flow well through the grieving process after a husband dies – perhaps because she didn’t have the resources we have today. As a Jewish woman Naomi believed in the Lord God, but she didn’t trust Him with her life.
This article goes hand-in-hand with the fourth chapter of my book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. In that chapter—Uprooting With Naomi—I share five Blossom Tips to help women move through the grief of not just losing a loved one, but moving to a new country, culture, city.
In Chapter Four I don’t just share Naomi’s story with a fresh spin, I also describe what it was like to meet my dad for the first time. I went all the way to Israel and met him at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. But first, let’s refresh our memories of Naomi…
A Glimpse of Naomi’s Story
Naomi’s sons, Mahlon and Kilion, ignored God’s command not to intermingle with pagan neighbors. They married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Both couples were childless. Ten years later Mahlon and Kilion both died, and Naomi buried her husband and sons in a foreign land.
See why I had such a hard time writing Naomi’s chapter? Not only was she crushed in heart and spirit, Naomi was a vulnerable older widow. Maybe you know what it feels like when grief is unending and you can’t reach out to God. Maybe you’re crushed in heart and spirit. Maybe you’re a vulnerable older widow. I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m glad you’re here! Keep reading; things do look up for us.
Naomi had no family and—as a Hebrew widow without family—didn’t belong in Moab. She decided to return to Israel even though she was an outsider there too. But Naomi had no choice. She had to let go of the dreams that died with her husband and sons. She had to move forward.
She heard God was doing good things back home in Israel, and she had nothing left to lose. The seven- to ten-day journey to Bethlehem through the desert and across the Dead Sea would have been arduous for anyone, much less an older widow traveling with her two daughters-in-law. Orpah and Ruth may have become family to her, but they were still Moabite women. They’d be seen as pagans in Israel, outsiders cursed by God. Naomi was returning with foreigners who might be demeaned and rejected, perhaps even abused.
It was a risky move for a bereaved, bitter widow. Naomi was facing a major life change, and she didn’t have our Blossom Tips to ease the transition.
Are you in the same position? Maybe you’re forced to face a loss you didn’t expect. Maybe you’re struggling with grief that won’t go away. Your life has been uprooted and all you can do is hold on.
Uprooting – Laurie’s Story
The first time I went to Israel, I was 29 and on a mission to meet my dad for the first time. I’d sent him a letter six weeks earlier, not wanting to catch him off guard by showing up unannounced. I suspected his wife and kids didn’t know about me, and I wasn’t sure he’d want to meet.
He didn’t respond to my letter. Did he even get it? Did he read or speak English? What if he rejected me or denied being my father? I was a stranger, the illegitimate daughter from his past. I had no idea what to expect.
When I arrived in Israel, I found a thousand reasons not to call my dad. I was in the Holy Land, after all! I had to explore all the Biblical places I’d read about: the Mount of Olives, Galilee, Bethlehem, Nazareth, En Gedi. I expected to see my dad everywhere I went. I didn’t know what he actually looked like, of course. I could only imagine.
When I finally summoned the courage to pick up the phone, the first thing my father said was “What took you so long to call?”
We met in the lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. We immediately recognized each other because I look just like him. I look so Jewish, in fact, that both Jews and Palestinians think I speak Hebrew. I look more like my father than his other children, but I’m the outsider.
What about you – do you feel like an outsider in your family, home, or job? How has your life been uprooted?
Share your big or little thoughts in the comments section below. Writing is healthy, especially if you feel confused, sad, scared or lost. It can help you make sense of your experiences and untangle your emotions.
Questions From Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back
At the end of every chapter are Questions for Journaling and Discussion that are directly related to that chapter’s Blossom Tips. Readers are invited to come here and share their thoughts.
Here are the questions in Chapter Four:
- Nose to Nose: How do you feel about picturing yourself face-to-face with Jesus? Do you have a visual image of God or the Holy Spirit?
- Surprise! When a transition didn’t happen as planned, how did you cope? What did you learn about yourself, others, life? How did it change your relationship with God?
- Friends: What has changed in your friendships? How do you make new friends these days?
- Change of Identity: Which identities, positive and negative, have you chosen? If you’ve outgrown any identities, how can you replace them?
- Change Your Mind: How would changing your mind about something—at work, home, church, or in a group or community—affect other people? What impact does their reaction have on your decision?
Feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below. Or, share anything that’s on your mind, about anything you’d like!
About Growing Forward…
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back offers a fresh, practical perspective on moving through loss. I share stories of contemporary and biblical women who transcended extraordinary pain and grief. I weave in my own experiences of growing up with a single schizophrenic mother, living in foster care, and then coping with infertility.
- Accept—and even embrace—a new season of life.
- Take small steps forward in practical, creative, delightful ways.
- Weave faith, trust, and hope into your heart, thoughts, and daily lives.
At the end you’ll have 50 Blossom Tips for moving forward after a loss. Each activity highlights a different aspect of who we are: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. This holistic approach ensures the whole self is addressed by incorporating spiritual, emotional, creative, physical, and intellectual growth.
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back is a comforting, encouraging book for women walking into a new season of life…which also makes it a great gift for women coping with death, divorce, or a difficult diagnosis.
In peace and passion,
P.S. Here’s the full list of Growing Forward articles here on “She Blossoms.” These aren’t the actual chapters of the book, they’re just our meeting places.
- Recreating and Replanting With Eve
- Sprouting With Sarah
- Digging Deeper With Hagar
- Uprooting With Naomi
- Starting Fresh With Ruth
- Growing Roots With Martha and Mary
- Reviving Your Heart With Hannah
- Renewing Your Purpose With Esther
- Growing Forward With Mary Magdalene
- Blossoming Into Life With Mary