So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-22
I think we’ve all more than likely had something happen to us that has shaken things up in our life. Whether big or small, there always seems to be an obstacle that pops up, and it always seems to be at the most inopportune time. When everything happened to my health last year, I was mad. Like REALLY mad. After years of struggling with my weight, I had finally lost (literally!) a whole person worth of excess weight — I lost 151lbs! I had met an AMAZING man, we got married and bought a beautiful house just outside of the city, had two dogs and we were blessed with the most beautiful baby girl. I swear I’m not biased! She really is the most beautiful baby ever ;)…. And then literally overnight, my health went spiraling down the toilet. My dreams of traveling, giving birth again, going back to school one day, etc. etc. – they all went down the pooper with it.
It would have been so ridiculously easy to become bitter without even realizing it. Thinking you’ve been dealt the worst hand and making sure everyone knows it can become second nature. Bitterness can slowly and subtly creep in on every aspect of your life and turn the sweetest things sour. Lately I’ve been reading the book Ruth in the Bible, and I feel for Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. She lost her husband and both her sons. She told people to stop calling her Naomi (which means pleasant) and to call her Mara instead (meaning bitter) because she had had a harsh turn of events. She couldn’t see past what had happened and thought God had brought this down upon her. I get it. No, no one died in my life, but a huge part of my life did.
Roughly three weeks after my initial surgery, a nurse was telling me about how she had to come back to work early from her maternity leave. She was complaining that she was sore, it was a long shift, and on and on and on. I looked right at her, and told her I was the wrong person to be complaining to! I hadn’t even walked in three weeks. I was bed ridden, on a ridiculous amount of medication, had lost a significant portion of my organs and was missing my family terribly. I told her she was healthy, had a good job, and she needed to stop whining. In reality I probably (almost certainly!) was too harsh on her. I told a friend about it the next day, and he quickly called me on it. He told me that I can’t let myself become that bitter person because no one will stick around no matter how crappy my situation has become. That truth hit me hard, but that piece of wisdom has stuck with me all year. Not that it’s a bad thing to vent, everyone needs that. But there’s a huge difference between having a bad day every once in a while and being in a permanent state of crabbiness. Through this I also realized that I want people to still be able to come to me without fear that I’ll throw it back in their face. We all have our struggles – big or small, and they are always significant to us. To have someone belittle those issues is never pleasant.
I’m not saying I’ve perfected never being bitter, trust me I’m far from it. I have my days like everyone. There are days where it’s hard to see things in a positive light, but it’s so important to push through and find the sweet in every day. For me, that’s my family and my friends. No matter what kind of mood I’m in, they make me smile. I’ve worked really hard at not being bitter and angry all the time. It is literally a moment by moment struggle for me. To be honest, I am definitely crankier than I was…for those of you who know me, you don’t have to comment on that point! If I’m not feeling well, I get snippy very quickly. But I’ve come a long way from where I was, and I’m really trying not to let my health sabotage my relationships and my perspective on other people’s situations.
Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth stuck by her side even though rightfully she could have returned to her tribe. Ruth got married and had a baby boy. Naomi walked through her dark time and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She was a grandma! Picture Naomi, rocking her grandbaby, tears streaming down her face. She had a rough go, but finally, all she had dreamt of was in her arms. I bet that she could literally feel the bitterness melting away. She had become Naomi again.