I had been out a few leisurely hours for coffee with a dear friend and was looking forward to getting back home to get started on the chores that had been waiting. As I stepped into the house, my sweet husband greeted me at the door asking if I had had a good time. As he stepped aside and I walked into the kitchen, I could see the beautiful vase of red roses laced with red hearts and nestled in baby’s breath and fern.
He has never forgotten.
The tradition of red roses began when we first knew love for each other when we were college students. The first time came on an October Sweetest Day that coincided with my birthday. They arrived again on Valentine’s Day. After we were married, they arrived on our anniversary as well. He also sent them for the births of our children, arranging the first time for them to be delivered even though he was half a world away in Vietnam.
Through each season of life together (now 51 years of marriage), he has found many ways to express his love. Red roses for these occasions are his reminder of a pledge, a covenant, made long ago when we were both so young we had only a small understanding of what that meant.
During my years as a clinical counselor and marriage and family therapist, I have had many young single women talk about what they hoped for in a future spouse. Some of the lists were very funny. Others were practical like having a job and not having a warrant for his arrest. Then I heard one young woman call it her “Boaz” list.
She shared with me that as she read the story of Boaz in the book of Ruth she saw in the character of Boaz the type of man she hoped would one day pursue her heart and pledge his love.
The love story of Ruth and Boaz is no ordinary love. Ruth demonstrated an uncommon love for her mother-in-law when her husband died and she chose to follow her mother-in-law, leave her homeland of Moab, and travel to her mother-in-law’s homeland adopting her faith and her culture.
As these two widows travel home, they face an uncertain fate. How will they survive? How will they find provision for themselves?
In all ways, Ruth submits to and honors Naomi and her counsel. So as the story goes along, Ruth goes to glean in the fields after the reapers have already harvested the field, looking for stalks that were left over or unnoticed along the edges of the field.
Of course, as in any good love story, we discover this is not just any field. It belongs to Boaz, a relative of Naomi who has the right to redeem all that had been Naomi’s deceased husband’s including her son’s widow, Ruth. He is prosperous, honorable in the town, and he has heard at the city gates about Naomi’s return and Ruth’s love and care for her mother-in-law.
What kind of woman was this? What kind of love?
The love Ruth generously gave to Naomi was not common. It was hesed love. It was the kind of love and blessing Naomi had sought to give Ruth and her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, as she left them in Moab to head home.
What is hesed love? It is sometimes translated “steadfast love” and it combines commitment and sacrifice. It is a stubborn love that refuses to give up or leave the one loved.
Paul Miller richly writes about this love story in his book, A Loving Life. He says, “Hesed is one-way love, Love without an exit strategy. Hesed is a stake in the heart of the changing seasons of life. Words of commitment create a bond that stands against life’s moodiness.”
“Hesed love is a determination to do someone good, no matter what, to be faithful to a covenant regardless of its impact on you.” Paul Miller
Ruth’s demonstration of hesed love in action was clear. It showed in all she did and was. You see hesed love is not something that can be imitated when it is not present. It is so woven into the fabric of the person in whom it resides that it becomes the very nature of which she or he is and requires no post-it note reminders.
It is little wonder that when Boaz discovers Ruth is gleaning in his fields (knowing how everyone in the town had observed her), he is attracted not only to her physical beauty but also the beauty of hesed within her.
Ruth learns before long how powerfully hesed love is also resident in Boaz as he asks his reapers to leave extra grain in the fields for her and to provide protection for her. He later invites her to lunch and as the story continues we see the Lord’s perfect plan for Boaz and Ruth unfold. You see the legacy of this love in the genealogy that comes from this union. (If you have not read it in awhile, you might want to savor it again with Paul Miller’s book alongside.)
Have you known that kind of hesed love? It is the way Jesus loves us. It is a covenant, forever love.
Hearing a young woman say she has a Boaz list for a future husband says a great deal to me about the quality of the woman as well as the quality of the man and love she seeks.
Such a love is worth waiting for!