A migration took place in the book of Ruth. A migration of mind and body. The search for a better life makes the migration necessary. As a drought overtook the area around Bethlehem and created a famine, the search for a better place to live began for Naomi and her husband Elimelech.
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there. Ruth 1:1,2
Many people today are living the same life, coming and going, searching for a better life. They may stay in place, never leaving the county they grew up in but they would if they could, if they knew how. Most folks are so mobile today that they rarely stay in the same place for long. But their souls have not always gone along with them. I’m speaking figuratively of course. I’m talking about the feeling that your life is in God’s hands and you have a deep satisfaction with how it’s working out, how it is lived.
God never promised us the conditions that would satisfy us. He promises to condition us to live a satisfying life no matter the conditions. Naomi had terrible conditions inflicted upon her and her family. Yet, she survived, even thrived through it all. With her experience, she became a master at living the Good Life.
We all want a better life, whatever that looks like. At some point though, we begin to want a better life for those around us, not just ourselves and our family. We begin to form a life of generosity. We give time, and experience and money, and work, and more time to making other peoples lives better. As we do that, we make our lives better as well.
I call it the Generosity Switch. It has to be thrown in your mind. You have to have a shock to your heart, a famine of Better Lives. You walk through your community and you see what it is, and you dream of what it can become. It hurts to see people who live in poverty, you start to feel their pain. Just a little at first, but then you start thinking about what you can do to make a difference in their lives. A switch goes from off to on at that point. A switch that says, I am going to make a difference. I don’t know what or how, but I am going to make a difference.
Have you found that switch? It is more process than event. It probably takes a while to find it, much less throw it. Be patient with yourself. God is. But remember to be open to the time when you will be ready to move the switch from Off to On.
As a church, I see signs in many places that this switch has been turned on. I see many more places where it has not yet been noticed. Maybe in your town, somewhere out in the vast Mid America Union territory, you have been dreaming of making a life of generosity toward your neighbors. You want to relive the famines in their lives, offer help that will not only make their week better, but their month, their year, and yes, the rest of their lives.
That movement of generosity is growing in our Adventist family. I don’t want to sound like I know more than anyone else, but I think we are on the verge of the next big thing, loving our communities in the very way that Jesus loved them when He walked among them and healed them and fed them.
Why don’t you grab your pastor and take him or her around town for a ride and some prayer. Don’t ask him what is going on or what he is planning to do to make the place better. Just pray your way through the streets and neighborhood of your fair community. Pray for the lonely hearts, the hungry children, the hard working mother’s and father’s, the home bound, the sick, the penniless, the frightened among your neighbors. Not everyone in our towns fits in to those categories, but many do. That kind of prayer will prime you to throw the switch, to make the migration from Bethlehem or House of Bread, where Generosity had run out, to Moab, where the fields were providing food for the hungry migrants.
This is the life of Jesus, don’t you agree? I’ll be praying for a few weeks for you, that you will find the Generosity Switch.