Ruth was a load-bearing wall, a necessary cross-beam, in Naomi’s life. She couldn’t replace her father-in-law, yet she carried much of the weight that he would have been bearing if he had still been alive. Yet we see clearly from Ruth and Naomi’s life the profound loss in their lives from the death of their heads. Ruth, in particular, persevered and brought comfort to Naomi, but that did not make the sense of profound loss go away. In fact, it was a new head in the form of Boaz that helped restore Ruth and Naomi’s household and family.
In my post on Thomas Jefferson and headship (which a commenter rightly pointed out is NOT a word that the Bible uses), I briefly mentioned addressing in the future women operating in the kingdom with an absentee head (a word the Bible does use). I’ve been slow to address that, but it is certainly worth exploring. If you haven’t read the other article, this one won’t make much sense.
I know many men whom I respect as kephale cornerstones in their homes and churches. Christ is the chief cornerstone in the household of faith, but these men image Christ out in their little households within the Big Household. They are load bearing men, who leverage their privilege to provide support and direction to those in their care. I love and admire these men. I won’t walk up to them and say anything, because that would be weird. But I note it from afar, and I thank God for what they bring to the household of faith.
I also know a number of men who have walked away from their load-bearing responsibilities. Some call it mid-life crisis. I think many men, including Christian men, reach a fork in the road a few years into the load-bearing responsibility of family and ministry. The naivety has worn off, and the responsibility is hard. And they must choose. Do they lean into their head, Jesus Christ (I Cor. 11:3), for the strength to persevere under the weight of responsibility, or do they extricate themselves from the household altogether? Many men choose the latter.
When a man removes himself from the weight of responsibility for his home and family, what happens? He was a load-bearing cornerstone, and the house sags in his absence. It will fall to pieces if not for a woman of courage and virtue to bear up in his absence. We see in Scripture such women of virtue bearing up in the absence or abdication of the men who should have been bearing the weight with and for them. Hagar. Abigail. Ruth. Esther. Lois. Eunace. These are the main ones from Scripture who come to mind. But they are joined in my head by the many women I know here on earth who bear up similarly. Felicia, Beth, Christine, Katherine, Louise, Tracy. Women who initiate devotions with their children when no one initiates with them. Women who must figure out how to earn an income after taking years off of their career path to have children. Women who tirelessly rally themselves and their children to church week after week with no reward or pat on the back. Women who spend their Mother’s Day serving others because no one is left to serve them.
The Bible calls these ladies women of virtue or capable women. The Bible looks at their role in their homes and praises it. In Proverbs 31, the woman of virtue bears her weight within the context of a marriage in which her husband bears his as well. Scripture implies that he is well respected in the community. This is a man who is a kephale cornerstone, levering his privilege as a load-bearing foundational element of the household. But Ruth was also known as a woman of virtue. Her reputation as a capable woman of strength preceded her (Ruth 3:11) when the kephale stones in her household of husband and father-in-law had died. Ruth was a load-bearing wall, a necessary cross-beam, in Naomi’s life. She couldn’t replace her father-in-law, yet she carried much of the weight that he would have been bearing if he had still been alive. Yet we see clearly from Ruth and Naomi’s life the profound loss in their lives from the death of their heads. Ruth in particular persevered and brought comfort to Naomi, but that did not make the sense of profound loss go away. In fact, it was a new head in the form of Boaz that helped restore Ruth and Naomi’s household and family.
Now, depending on our backgrounds and doctrinal inclinations, we are often offended by one or the other of Ruth’s states.