Hey y’all! My husband and I are on a much-needed vacation. I’ll tell you more about it in October. Today I’d love to introduce you to my dear friend Carrie Stephens. I’m so looking forward to reading this book she wrote with her husband.
Now here’s Carrie:
Two years ago, I convinced my husband to write a book with me based on a sermon series he preached seven years ago. Morgan and I have worked in ministry for over twenty years. I’ve heard him preach a few hundred or so sermons but that particular series about friendship and the book of Ruth has lived in my head rent-free ever since. The stories of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz offer enormous hope that God redeems difficult circumstances through friendships shared by people from different backgrounds, generations, and perspectives.
And is it just me? Or do we all need more hope and richer friendships these days?
Morgan, who had never written a book before but had watched me write two, agreed to go for it. A married couple writing a book together? What could go wrong?
(Cue the slightly foreboding music and a near-comical slideshow of our adorable naïveté.)
The first thing that could go wrong was my husband, who had never written a book, confidently assuring the publisher that eleven weeks provided enough time to begin and finish a manuscript in addition to his full-time job as a pastor of a growing church. Morgan is a classic over-achiever, which means I often sprint to keep his pace. But this deadline even crushed him.
As a bonus, during the first three weeks of keeping this impossible writing pace, you and your husband could argue incessantly about whether or not a particular paragraph makes any sense whatsoever. (Dear reader, please note the paragraph did not make sense.)
Then right there, in the middle of this blissful life lesson about how married people should not write books together, all your research, prayer, and long hours spent discussing the book would reveal details you missed for the last three or four decades.
Your heart would grow tender toward Orpah, whose choice to return to Moab suddenly seemed more logical than Ruth’s decision to become a foreigner in a land where she would probably live in poverty as an outsider. You would weep for Orpah, for all the times you heard her name brushed aside as faithless. You would wonder what could have happened to her if she, too, had clung to Naomi. You would lie in bed at night, tenderly imagining Orpah among your own lost friends, and pray God would help all of you find your way through.
Your respect for Ruth would swell when you imagined her graciously allowing Naomi to tell all her old Bethlehem friends about her bitterness. When Naomi declared she had returned home with nothing, you would want to insert yourself into the scene and defend Ruth as an extraordinary gift in Naomi’s life. But on further reflection, you’d realize God had that piece of the story covered, and you’d realize God has your offenses and injustices covered, too.
Thankfully, your opinion of Naomi would improve when she wisely intuited Boaz’s intentions toward Ruth. Despite being undone by vulnerable circumstances, Naomi didn’t give up hope of redemption. Her desire to find rest for Ruth in this weary world changed their lives forever.
In Boaz, you marvel at the empathy and generosity of this man shaped by his foreign, non-Jewish mother. You will want to take a time machine and visit him with the news that even though he gave up the right to give Obed his family name, God would forever link Boaz’s name to his own Son’s name.
By the time you and your husband finished your book about how God wove these friends from different generations, ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic levels into his plan to carry the world home to himself, you would be a different person.
In the end, the detail of the story that matters most is that even though you and your best friend have finished writing a book together, God hasn’t finished the final happy ending yet. Ruth’s story proves that all the paragraphs that don’t make sense will sort themselves out someday.
And the most important thing we can do is take a long walk, clinging to one another, as we watch for God to save the day.
Carrie Stephens is the author of Holy Guacamole: A Glorious Discovery of your Undeniable Worth (Shiloh, February 2020), Jesus, Love, & Tacos: A Spicy Take on Lordship, Community, and Mission (Leafwood, October 2022), and co-author of Friendship Can Save the World: The Book of Ruth and the Power of Diverse Community (Leafwood, September 2023). Carrie and her husband, Morgan, live in Austin, Texas, and have four incredible kids. After serving as campus ministers for ten years at the University of Texas, Carrie and Morgan have led Mosaic Church, a richly diverse community of faith in Austin, since 2009. They are passionate about reaching lives and transforming cities through church planting, campus ministry, and missional work. You can read more of Carrie’s writing at carriestephensauthor.com.