H2H: The Study – Who embrace the real, the messy, and the difficult

By: Emily Litow

Text: Ruth 1:1-17

So often in church life we hear buzzwords surrounding community. We’re not just friends, we’re ‘doing life, while ‘living authentically’ with ‘transparent vulnerability’, in our ‘organic relationships’ and things of that nature.  But what happens when life gets messy? What happens when it’s hurtful and challenging? What happens when we push ourselves to be vulnerable and transparent, only to be met with disappointment? When that insecure voice from within keeps us from letting others see the real, the messy, and the difficult things about us?  What happens when our brokenness is too much to carry on our own, and we simply need people?

With each year that passes, I have seen and felt the need of people who embrace the real, messy, and difficult. I have opened up to wonderful and trusted friends, shared my deepest pain, and been met with bitter disappointment. I have been ‘too much’, and ‘too broken’, or ‘too awkward’ to be carried by people that I thought were in it with me all the way.  But, I have also experienced the opposite. The freedom and joy that come with the friendships of the women who look you in the eyes and say “I’m your person, your pain is my pain, your brokenness is not too much, I’m in this and will stay in this with you.”

In the text, we meet Naomi, who is broken, hurting, and has quite literally been left with nothing. Her life has gotten messy. She’s a widow, and both of her sons have died, which in those times meant that she was basically at the bottom of society.  She graciously sends her daughters-in-law away so that they aren’t forced to deal with her real, her messy, and her difficulty. And although Orpah leaves, Ruth stays.

In verses 16 & 17 Ruth says, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Ruth is basically saying, “I am your person, you are not too much, you are not a burden. Your mess and your difficulties are mine too. I’m with you heart and soul, all the way.”

The world – not just the church – not just our church, needs women like this. Women who embrace each other, even when it’s messy, even when it hurts, whether it is deserved or not.  Women who don’t walk away, but embrace each other when things get hard, and when life gets real.  Women who ‘love from the center of who they are’ (Rom 12:10, MSG), are ‘deep spirited friends’ (Phil 2:2, MSG), and ‘share each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2, NLT) in all the seasons of life – embracing the real good and the real bad, the joy and the pain, the messy, and the difficult.

When we really love others like that an amazing thing happens; when life gets messy for us, when we need it, we find ourselves being embraced and loved in return. Because we have cultivated deep, true friendships, not based on convenience or trivial things, but rather forged and strengthened in the mess, in the real and the difficult – and those kinds of women, in those kinds of relationships, change the world.