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Churches try to address this problem through special retreats and sermons aimed at singles. I would submit to you that where singles are discontent in churches, one possible remedy is egalitarianism. Ruth lived at a time when women had very few rights.
When her husband died, she was left without means to support herself. Faced with the limited options of leaving town with her mother in-law Naomi or returning to her family, she decided to set off with Naomi into a life of uncertainty and poverty. Naomi had a male relative nearby, so Ruth took the initiative to scavenge in his field in an attempt to attract his attention and escape poverty—but also to avoid being assaulted by men working the fields, as Naomi told her she might be if she went to the field of a stranger.
She sneaked into his house at night and lay at his feet while he was sleeping—a far cry from the dating advice of many pastors. Boaz was touched that she was willing to marry an old man, and he married her, saving her from a life of poverty. This is a fascinating story, and we can read it a of ways.
Including a man. Rather than being a lady in waiting, Ruth is the one who makes many of the moves. We live in a society still plagued by injustices based on gender, class, and race. Many women worldwide only have options as bleak, or more, as those faced by Ruth. Churches have made amazing contributions to alleviating some of the horrors of poverty and oppression worldwide, and we have much more work to do. Yet women—and men! The implication that men exist to be our fearless leaders puts a lot of pressure on men. There is simply no clear Biblical mandate for women to wait noiselessly for men to receive otherworldly wisdom about who and how to date.
Women can—perhaps should—participate equally in negotiating every level of the relationship. After all, relationships are a constant negotiation between equally imperfect human beings, and by abdicating responsibility and agency in relationships, women set the stage for feeling powerless and dissatisfied. Relationships will always be difficult, but men and women can face these difficulties bravely together—as surely as Ruth and Boaz did. Ivy Grimes is a current freelance writer, former lawyer, and hopeful poet.
Feel free to visit her poem blog at poemchallenges. By Richard Bauman Driving through the supermarket parking lot I almost ran over a woman hurrying from the store to her car. I had made a mistake: I was looking to the left and turning right when she charged out of the store, pushing an overflowing shopping cart almost directly in front of my car. CSA is a group of Christian scholar-activists, stirring the imagination for a fuller expression of Christian faithfulness and a more just society.
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Waiting for Boaz