Return. So much is packed into that word for me. I read through the book of Ruth the last couple of days before boarding a plane back to South Asia. And I saw that word over and over again. Right alongside the word “redemption.” Redemption always involves a return. A forsaking of something else and a return to what was always meant to be. Naomi and her family had gone out of Israel—where they were meant to be—and into a neighboring place, to escape a famine. After much pain and even more loss, she sets her heart to return, all based on a word she heard in the fields: “The L0rd has visited His people again.” The famine was over. She was to return.
And she, really, expected no redemption. Her words were metallic as they left her mouth—“The L0rd’s hand has been very bitter to me.” But the timing of the return changed everything: “it was the beginning of the barley harvest.” She may have thought it was good, a good chance for her accompanying daughter-in-law to find work to feed them. And yet, that was perhaps the end of her thoughts. Same with Ruth, who fought to claim her place with Naomi in this story, seeing some sweetness even in the bitterness Naomi felt.
But their Father, their G0d, knew the deeper stirrings in their story. His hand enabled their return and established its timing. His hand brought Ruth to just the right field to glean from one who would show her great favor and affection—who would also receive her great kindness and agree to redeem her and love her as his forever own. His hand moved each and every detail, setting every second into its place, while still hanging on to the entire order of creation as it moved to bring the harvest even up out of the ground.
This same Father has done the same thing in each of our stories—on a much grander scale. Our redemption came not by our initiative at all. He came to us. Our return was only enabled by grace’s subtle whispers to our hardened hearts. We heard no hint of grace apart from Him.
And now that we’ve received it, it has become a major part in each day we live on this earth. He is moving us towards great purpose, towards greater depths of love and relationship with Him. He is moving us ever closer to ultimate redemption of our bodies and the ultimate return of our bodies to His very presence. This is grace—always being led deeper with the Father, by the Father’s very hand over ours.
I felt it as I descended into South Asia this past week. I wept over this promised return. I cried heavy tears over bright shining lights, only just piercing the darkness that clings so tightly to this land. I love this place. The journey back has been long and full of unexpected twists and misunderstood turns. And yet, here I am. The “send me” gets cut by a sharp breath that realizes that He did—that is done. Now, only the first phrase remains: “here I am.”
My feet shift awkwardly over the mazing and disconnected streets and sideways. My hands shakily grip the metro bars, clinging as if I might accidentally let go and be flown back into the waiting that pervades the last five years of my life. My eyes lock to the ground, to help my feet feel their way, and to show respect to the many men around me. But then they flit up and catch a bit of light in their brown bowls, as a sari-clad woman or a sweet teenage girl smile at the white girl trying to blend in with the crowds and, somehow, belong.
“Here I am.” Wanting to belong, wanting to be planted, wanting desperately to be poured out as a sacrificial drink offering upon the altar of faith for those who have had zero opportunity to hear or respond to grace. The same grace that redeemed me. The same grace that established each detail, step, and process to make this promised return a breathtaking reality. That’s what I hold so lightly to, my hands stretched open, palms facing heaven, to accomplish their gentle task to carry this promise as the journey continues into a new season—as I stare wide-eyed, hopeful, into the beautiful and the unknown.