Marriage & the Book of Ruth

“Wherever you go, I shall go, whatever you do, so shall I do. Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God too.”
Rendering of the Book of Ruth in song by the Benedictine monks in Weston Priory, VT.

Next week is my ninth wedding anniversary and I have been trying to find a way to mark the day even though my husband Chase and I will be apart. I keep telling myself that it won’t be so bad…after all this is not the first time we have been away from one another on November 13th. But this year, as was the case last year, he is in Europe and I am in New England and the distance feels even greater.

For the past few days each time I feel a longing to be with Chase or I begin contemplating my sense of loss I find myself re-reading the words of the Book of Ruth 1: 16-17. This is the passage in which Ruth commits to return with her mother-in-law Naomi to the latter’s homeland despite Naomi’s protestations. Ruth’s powerful but gentle retort is in part: “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
These words, spoken between two women, were typed—boldly—on the cover of the program for my wedding Mass and for nearly a decade I’ve turned to them in times of struggle and in times when I’ve needed to be reminded of the depth of love my God has for me. Most importantly I have turned to them to help guide the wonderfully complex journey that marriage can be. As a Catholic woman it is a joy to have this image of female friendship and compassion as a model.

Here I find an accessible image of deeply passionate union whereby the love and connection between two people allows one to embrace fully the life, the family, the nation, and the world of another. This is done not without trepidation and not without being aware of sacrifice but rather while embracing and facing head-on these very things. Ruth speaks these words to Naomi even though her promise will require her to move into foreign and unknown territory and even though Ruth risks losing her own world in the process. It is to this image of love so strong that even the unknown is not a barrier that I am drawn. In the entire Bible it is this passage and these words of fidelity and this promise of companionship that helped me first imagine and then work to craft a life in partnership with my husband.

I do not know if this exchange between Ruth and Naomi resonates with Chase the way it does with me. But I do know that on the 13th I will read Ruth’s words once more, I will most likely listen to my well-worn vinyl recording of the Benedictine monks of Weston Priory, VT singing them, and I will be praying for the wisdom and strength to live by them in the coming year. Click here for a link to the monks singing their song “Wherever You Go”. [http://www.westonpriory.org/music.html]

Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello is a mother, wife, runner, and Catholic living and working in New England where she is a professor of American Studies. She also writes for the blog “The Public Humanist.”

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