Not the book of Ruth! A Reluctant Teacher’s Encounter with God’s Living Word (Part 1)

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This post is a guest post written by Melanie Ingland, Assistant to the Leadership Resources President, about her opportunity to teach the wives of the men enrolled in the Training National Trainers program in Central Asia this fall.

I admit I never really cared for the book of Ruth.  It is a narrative so it seems harder to get lessons out of it.  I tried to glean a few things (haha…if you have ever read the book you would know that gleaning is a HUGE part of the story).  Mostly it felt flat to me.

I didn’t hate the book, I just felt ambivalent.  I never connected with it and frankly never saw the allure that so many people have with it.  We finished the study together and moved on to other passages.  I actually thought at the end of the study “I am so glad I will never have to teach this book.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin!  I don’t get anything out of it so I couldn’t pass anything along to people. “

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing for my trip to Central Asia when I got an email from our in-country coordinator.  He told me that he wanted me to do an inductive Bible study with the women he was gathering while I was there.  Well that blew my original plans up since I was not taking that approach.  He stated pretty emphatically he didn’t want something topical but something inductive.  He was leaving the passage up to me but he said “how about Ruth?”

I immediately thought… “There are 65 other books in the Bible.  I don’t think I am going to do Ruth.”

I immediately thought… “There are 65 other books in the Bible.  I don’t think I am going to do Ruth.”

I asked him if there was a particular reason that he wanted Ruth and he said that the husbands had studied that and really enjoyed it.  I know that in several other situations people have taught Ruth at LRI.  Well that was not the book for me!  I then was talking to Craig (and I didn’t mention the suggestion of Ruth) and I told him that our in-country coordinator wanted me to do an inductive Bible study.  He sat back and said “Why don’t you do the book of Ruth?  It is a beautiful story and it is short and about women.  I think that you would really enjoy teaching it and love learning from it.”

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I didn’t really respond because I was not going to tell my boss that I didn’t like a book in the Bible!

I sat there and glibly said that I was going to process all of my options and think it through.  In my mind I am thinking, “I think I am going to teach 2 Timothy or Jonah.  We have curriculum for that I like those stories better.  Ha ha…little does he know I am NOT going to do Ruth!  Stop asking!”

Well my next stop was a discussion with our curriculum writer.  Paul has been an AMAZING help to me as I prepare my materials.  I told him my situation and time frame and asked his opinion.  He said “Well you could do the book of Esther.  That is a good story and I would be happy to help you out with it.”  Finally!  Someone who is suggesting something OTHER than Ruth!

Esther appealed to me and I had actually been wanting to read through that and study it.  That was definitely a possibility.

Then the bombshell.  

Paul says “Well you could do Ruth as well.  It is short and it would fit in well with your time frame.  We have some materials already written for it but you would have to rework it for your purposes.”

Seriously?  Paul is really suggesting Ruth?  I said in a very Christian way “I will think it over and pray about it.”  Of course my prayers went something like “Lord what do you want me to bring to these women?  Since the book of Ruth isn’t an option, what else ya got?”

A picture of women in harvest.  I imagine this is what Ruth looked like

A picture of women in harvest. I imagine this is what Ruth looked like

Every Thursday morning we have a field report from a recent trip.  I had to do some scrambling in the schedule due to some conflicts and I asked Todd to talk about his recent trip to Central Asia.  Since it was late notice, he didn’t have the usual visual presentation so he was just going to do a small devotional and talk about the trip.  I love this time and always look forward to it.

So we are sitting there and Todd busts out his Bible and says “I am going to talk from the book of Ruth today.”

ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!!  Why is everyone OBSESSED with this book?!

Don’t they know that it is a flat narrative that gives no practical application?  I sat and listened to what he said and heard some good things. Not enough for me to formulate 5 lessons around it but enough to chew on for the day.

During the talk Craig leans over to me and says “You should be teaching Ruth!”  Really?  We are in a meeting right now…not appropriate to be telling me to pay attention to God whacking me over the head.  Can’t you see that I have made my decision not to do Ruth and move on to more exciting things.  Comprende?  The decision is done…finished…over…dead.  I am not doing Ruth.   Case closed.

Well …I now have to decide what book I am going to teach.  I have 65 books to choose from (remember…Ruth is out of the question).  Crunch time is here.  I have to come up with something and come up with it fast.  D-day is approaching and I have to get something to the translators.

So I finally said, “OK Lord…is this a coincidence or are you really trying to get my attention?  If you want me to do Ruth I am going to need an out-of-body experience.  I have NO CLUE how to approach this so how can I teach something that I myself don’t get?  How am I going to draw applications from a book where the most I see is that Ruth was a foreigner so…..be nice to foreigners?”  Silence.  No feelings. No message floating down from heaven.  No stork bringing me the answer.  But strangely that was the answer I needed.  I also didn’t feel that I shouldn’t be doing Ruth.  It was just my obstinance and close-mindedness that chose not to do Ruth.  So with serious faith and prayers I endeavored to  dive in and teach Ruth.  I wasn’t sure how all of this was going to work but I thought this must be the Lord’s direction since he seemed to be putting a lot of neon signs  in my path.

That Tuesday I spent all day trying to put together materials and wrap my mind around what I am going to teach.  I made a lot of headway and waded through our materials.  At the end of the day I felt good at the amount that I had accomplished but at the same time I was discouraged that I wasn’t farther along.  I had put together a lot of the structure of the time but I didn’t have a good grasp on the book and the contents. I needed to flesh out the message of the book still.  I emailed Paul and asked if he would spend some time with me on Wednesday working it through.

Paul and I spent all day on Wednesday fleshing out the material.  It was an amazing day.  Paul is so patient and a great teacher.   He taught me the principles and then we worked through the book together.  He had not taught or dug into Ruth before so this was just as new for him as it was for me.  It was fun going chapter by chapter as digging around to find messages, themes and main ideas.

As we talked the beautiful story of Ruth emerged!  I saw connections I had not seen before!  I began to understand and appreciate the story of faithfulness, joy, redemption and restoration.  I felt that I had a much better picture and idea as to what the connections were.  I could see beautiful themes weaving through all four chapters.  I am so grateful to Paul for showing me the principles to find the gems in this story.  He sacrificed so much of his time to work through material with me.  The Lord grew in my heart an appreciation for this story and the lessons He put there through the author.

**Originally posted on Melanie’s Blog**

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