When our family moved to Texas from southern California in 2016, we knew we were part of the mass exodus of native Californians taking up residence in the Lone Star State. What we didn’t know was how HUGE this trend would become. Today, Austin and its outskirts is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. The population boom has its upsides, to be sure, but for those of us already living here it can feel like we are residing in a perpetual construction zone.
In the three years since we moved to our current town (which is about forty miles north of downtown Austin), we have witnessed the construction of countless homes, numerous restaurants and stores, and quite a few new recreational areas. We are also getting to follow the real-time construction of a new highway system that will be replacing the more modest roads currently connecting us to the city. Each time we leave our house, we can observe the new changes that were made overnight, from tunnels that have been dug to huge portions of overpasses that have been constructed to lanes that have been diverted and rerouted. As much as we dislike the chaos of it all, it has been a fascinating project to witness.
Contrast this publicly-witnessed construction project to the way things are done in The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland). My sister-in-law just returned home from a family trip to Disney, and as she was filling us in on some of the updates to the park, I thought back to my own times in the Magic Kingdom when I noticed (but could not actually observe) the construction and demolition of attractions. If you’ve been to a Disney park, you’ll know that Disney likes to keep the details of these projects under wraps until they are complete; to preserve the mystery of it all, huge fences are erected around the attraction sites to keep curious guests from snooping in the weeks and months leading up to the attraction’s big reveal. The work of building and creating can be heard behind those walls, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the magic-in-progress through a slight opening in the fence, but mostly this work is hidden.
As an outsider, it’s easier to trust and understand the work of construction we can see: I can picture what our town’s future roads might look like more easily than I would be able to envision a Disney ride being fashioned behind a barrier. But observation of the building process does not make it any more real; the work is being done, whether or not it is being witnessed by onlookers.
This object lesson of roads and rides has been on my mind as I have studied the story of Ruth with my Bible study ladies this semester. If you’re unfamiliar with this slim book of the Bible, I encourage you to read it: it’s a quick 4-chapter story of a widow (Naomi) and her daughter-in-law (a foreigner named Ruth) and the hope and provision these two women find through a kind and generous relative (Boaz). It’s a beautiful story filled with heartbreak, redemption, and kindness. But it’s not exactly the stuff that summer Blockbusters are made of. In fact, if it were a modern day movie, it would probably be that overly artsy film that is packed with metaphor but light on audience appeal.
It’s this quiet nature of the book of Ruth that I find most compelling: it is somewhat of an outlier in the Old Testament in that it is not a story of kings or prophets, nor the documentation of a huge historical event (like the creation story or the flood in the time of Noah), or even a book of poetry or wisdom literature, like Psalms and Proverbs. Ruth is the story of one family facing circumstances that were difficult but not altogether out of the ordinary for the time. Yet God, in His kindness, chose to include this story in Scripture as a gift for those of us yearning to see Him in everyday life.
The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz offers an insider’s look at God’s handiwork in the minutia of our lives—work that is always taking place, but rarely observed and infrequently documented. I can’t help but ponder the countless stories like this one that were occurring “behind the walls” of the broader Old Testament narrative; Ruth is the part of the story we are getting to see through the cracks, evidence that God IS at work and that the completion of His handiwork will eventually be revealed in all its glory.
God is still working today, in big ways and in small ones. It’s not always easy to see God’s work in progress, though. It can be frustrating when we are hoping to witness God’s miracles and answered prayers while He chooses to do His work outside of our field of vision. But for believers, we can trust that He IS at work, bringing all things together for the good of those who follow Him. And as we wait to see the revelation of that handiwork, it can be helpful to reflect on the times in which we have witnessed or personally experienced His unexpected presence or provision. We can lean into the knowledge of His faithfulness in the past in order to fortify our belief that He is faithful now and will remain so into the future.
I have countless personal examples of times when God seemed absent but was very clearly present and working in ways I did not recognize until much later. There were the years in my teens and early twenties of longing for a romantic relationship that never came—I now see this as God sparing me from breakups prior to meeting Luke, my first and only love. I faced a similar aching during our time of secondary infertility—a time in which God was preparing me to be the mom to TWINS! To bring this post full circle to the topic of our move to Texas: leading up to our move, our family experienced a number of frustrating roadblocks that prevented us from moving elsewhere—this was confusing in the moment, but those pauses on our move ultimately provided a path for us to relocate to our current home, which is exactly where we now know we were meant to be.
I share these stories to remind myself of God’s faithfulness in my life, and to inspire you too. Because sometimes, when God seems too quiet or absent or uncaring, it is hard to reflect on His faithfulness in our own lives. It can be easier to see His faithfulness in the lives of others. . . and then begin to believe He is faithful to us, too, even though we might not see it.
Through years of participating in small fellowship groups, I have witnessed the power of sharing stories that point to God’s goodness and presence. My fellow group members and I have gotten to see God show up in one another’s stories—the types of stories that Ruth’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren shared about their own family’s experience of a faithful God, a story that we are blessed to read and learn from today.
PRAISE GOD for His Word that offers windows into His history with His people through stories that illuminate His presence and expound upon His unexpected but faithful provision. His Word is a reminder that He always has been and always will be at work. Our lives add to the legacy of His goodness and His workmanship that began millennia ago and continues today. And the sharing of our stories pulls back the curtain on the ways God is present. We are the Works in Progress of a God who is endlessly faithful in the restoration and redemption of His beloved.