Open Your Bible
Ruth 1:1-2:2, Ruth 4:13-17, Psalm 103:1-5
Yellow socks aren’t supposed to make a girl sad. Yet, they do. I see them tucked in unfamiliar shoes, covering impostor feet as they walk away, oblivious to the way they make me ache.
I miss someone who used to wear yellow socks.
With the enormity of her own loss, Naomi’s life must have been open to silly triggers of grief three times over. The voids left by her husband and two sons were surely hollow yet heavy. Tragedy was a thief, stealing away her family as well as her very identity as a wife and mother.
Did she avoid social gatherings in fear of small talk about the achievements of others’ children? Did she sleep in another room because her husband’s previously unkempt belongings remained untouched? Did she feel less like herself without them by her side?
When the sympathy casseroles from own my grief were still warm, I was horrified by the way I could easily recall what it felt like to be full and nourished, yet remain far from that bygone reality. It felt as if the whole world knew the facts of my sorrow, but no one knew about yellow socks.
I can picture Naomi sitting in her emptiness, when nothing about her circumstances seemed right—not even her own name, which meant “pleasantness.” Her story may fit evenly across the pages of the book of Ruth, but I bet nothing about her despair felt neat or orderly.
Naomi is the woman I want to sit with in my own sadness. I don’t want cliches or how-to’s, another card or conversation, I just want a glimpse of God. I want to hunker down with someone who knows the course—someone who can instruct me when to cry and when to hold back tears, what to avoid and what to embrace, how to refine my grief and how to recall joy.
Such instruction unexpectedly came to me in the mail one day. The sender said, “Wear these whenever you need to” in a note attached to my very own pair of yellow socks. I was hesitant, but soon pulled them over my feet and stood in declaration of my own unique sadness, allowing my mourning to take root.
Here’s what I love about Naomi: she was way ahead of me in this practice of wearing her weeping. She exposed her bitterness in the most tangible way she could muster—by changing her name. Her identity.
“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter” (Ruth 1:20).
As outsiders, we can read this statement and believe Naomi was rebelling against her heavenly Father. We can misunderstand her grief, dismissing her as shortsighted or lacking faith. We can see her renaming herself based on her shifting circumstances and think, Girl, where’s your heavenly perspective?
But if we gather together, put on our own yellow socks and look closely through our personal pain, we’ll see more than a woman in despair. We’ll see a sister in the pit, waiting for her life to be redeemed, Psalm-103-style. And we’ll see a God who has been renewing His daughter all along.
The story could have ended with the introduction of Mara (Ruth 1:20). She certainly thought it would. But when we read of Boaz and Ruth’s baby boy at the end of Chapter 4, we see a beautiful new beginning. I’ve always seen the child as a tangible sign of redemption, a fitting end to the story. But do you know what I noticed this time around? The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi.” To Mara? No, to Naomi! God not only renewed a family and lineage—He brought renewal to His beloved daughter Naomi.
Friends, we can wear garments of grief or our own yellow socks. But ultimately, God calls us renewed of joy. He gives “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
May He crown you with beauty and redemption today and place in your heart a promise of His renewal. Amen.