“Call me Mara,” she said, as thin tears made salty tributaries in her aged, cracked skin. She was speaking to no one in particular. Her bittersweet heartache flitted away upon the warm desert breeze. A caravan of sand whipped up very near her and rushed against her long black linen gown, harshly stinging her strong calf muscle. Naomi, while living in Moab had, all at once, with no warning, became a childless widow. A widow she had already been for nearly ten years while raising her sons to manhood… .watching them mature and marry in the land of the Moabites. Then, upon the heels of the second marriage celebration, her two sons had died together in weakness of health and sickliness.
Naomi, an Israelite, had lived beneath the breath of the Almighty her whole life. In a land of foreign gods and pagan superstitions, she kept a constant vigil in His care… .and yet, the idolatrous ways of Moab, the ideologies and arbitrary practices of whimsical deities and demons toyed with her perceptions day in and day out. Here, in a deserted wasteland of heart and sand, on her sojourn back to Israel, she declares her name to be “bitter”, dispossessing “Naomi” which means “pleasant”; for she laments, “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me,” Ruth 1:13. The foundation of trust in the Lord God Almighty of Israel lay badly damaged under the heap that buried her beloved sons. Womb, arms and heavy sobs opened aggressively, crying out, seeking their fullness… .catching their breath. All the life in her went in and out with the insanity of famished grief. She was hungry for the love and familiar embraces of her husband and sons…
Her testimony lingered on dry lips that had quivered and poured out their sorrow. Wailing covered the territory from Moab to Bethlehem of Israel. The old woman that rode upon the steady donkey through narrow streets was not the young blushing bride with a full womb that had passed out of them many, many years before. Her raven curled tresses were split and grey. Her bright olive eyes had dulled and ached with a bloodshot pain, rimmed with deep blue circles of sleeplessness. Her figure slumped with the heaviness of great loss. Naomi was not Naomi anymore. “Is this Naomi?” the town’s women asked among themselves. “No, the woman is known as Mara.” The testimony of bitterness walked upon chatty tongues into eager ears. “It is said of her that the Almighty has dealt bitterly with her.” “Yes” said another, “but this is Naomi. For it is said like this, ‘Naomi, the Israelite, left David’s land full as a wineskin. She was poured out and emptied in a foreign land with no kin’.” Another replied, “From her own lips she has spoken that the Lord has testified against her and brought calamity to her delightful tent. Why do you suppose the Lord has disagreed with Naomi?”
And Naomi, the bitter Israelite, lived with her daughter-in-law Ruth of the Moabites, in the fertile valleys and groves of the small, newly prospering, Bethlehem.