I thought she was someone who had my heart and who had given her heart to me. I thought we had exchanged the sweetest of gifts, the gift of friendship. But her letter to me proved my thoughts were faulty.
No, she didn’t specifically say to go away and leave her alone but that message came through her words. Her words pierced my heart, where once I felt the soft, sweet kiss of friendship; now I felt only the hard slap of rejection.
Until this moment, I’ve only told two people of the loss of this friendship. Both of them immediately asked if it was a permanent break of friendship or if there was any hope of restoration. I was taken aback by the question. Didn’t they hear me? I said I had a lost a friend. When you lose something, you lose it and you don’t get it back. It’s gone for good, gone forever.
At least that’s what we’re taught. If someone tells you to leave, you obey and you leave. And when you leave you don’t ever come back. You don’t come back because you can’t come back. Rejection is final because rejection is fatal. It’s fatal to your heart and fatal to your friendships. Once you’re rejected, or you reject, you can’t trust.
And if you can’t trust, you can’t have friends because that relationship has at it’s very core, trust. If I can’t trust you to not reject me, I can’t trust you with my friendship.
A quick look at the book of Ruth throws this whole mindset under the proverbial bus. It debunks it for anyone with an open eye to see.
“And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.'” Ruth 1:14-15
First Naomi took both Orpah and Ruth with her as she headed back to the Promised Land of blessing. Then something, maybe bitterness of soul, happened to make Naomi tell both of them to leave her and return home. Initially they both told her they would not, but when she insisted, Orpah kissed her and returned.
But Ruth clung to her. In the face of rejection, she clung. In the face of being pushed away, sent back, unwanted, abandoned, she clung to the very one who didn’t want her any longer.
Clung is a verb meaning, to adhere closely, stick to, to hold tight by grasping or embracing. Can’t you just picture this? Two women in the desert. One is casting a pointed finger indicating the other one should leave. But the other one isn’t looking in that direction, she is clinging in a tight embrace to the one with the pointed finger.
I can hear the heart and see the tears in Ruth’s next words. See if you can too.
“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.'” Ruth 1:16-17
So often used in a marriage ceremony. But these words are not spoken to Boaz. They are not spoken to the one who wanted her. They are spoken to the very one who was rejecting her heart, her offer, her friendship. Naomi is stiff-arming her, saying “Go away. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. You’re not welcome. Go home. Go back. You’re not wanted. You can’t come. You aren’t included.” And what is Ruth doing? She is holding Naomi in a tight embrace saying, “Don’t make me leave you.”
And something in her words, in her plea, maybe in the tone of her voice, gets Naomi’s attention and breaks down defenses. The two of them continue on the way the promised land.
The shot of hope this passage blasted into my veins can’t be explained away. Jesus spoke to the soul, the heart of the matter, “It’s not over. There is hope. Cling!”
I know I’ve talked here about needs and our need Meeter being Jesus and He is the One to whom we are to cling. Sometimes though, we forget that we get to cling to His blessings as well. Apart from His life lived and given out for me I can think of no greater gift than the sweet gift of friendships. We learn so much about Jesus through our friends.
So how can we cling to a friend who is rejecting us? How do we know when to cling and when to let go and walk away?
Trite and possibly a pat answer but it’s the truth. Not every friend is to be a friend forever. But some of them are. Not all friendships that end are over for always. Some of them are. How do we know the difference? We listen to Jesus. We cling to Him, we bind ourselves to Him, we go where He tells us, we say what He tells us, we love who He tells us to love, we give what He gives to us.
It might take some honest asking for wisdom.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
Ask Him. And then cling.