If someone promises their friendship, commitment and devotion to you no matter what the circumstances, how would you expect them to express that commitment to you? Would you want them to verbalize it, then seal the deal with a kiss or a handshake? How about a legal document or a ring? Would that be enough proof? Remember – words are cheap, paper is fragile, and rings can be removed, but actions speak much louder.

We’ve all seen young children clinging to their daddy’s legs when they don’t want them to leave, or when they really want his attention. Their little arms AND their legs are completely wrapped around the man, not allowing him any escape! They are like a clinging vine, that grips the tree trunk with all its might, not willing to be easily stripped away from its support system and strength. This image might better portray complete devotion to someone.

Let’s define “devotion”: the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal. A pledge to remain true.

(As I start to write about devotion, the Olivia Newton-John song “Hopelessly devoted to you….” keeps playing in my head, over and over… and now it is in yours too.)

In Hebrew, the name “Ruth” means: companion, friend, vision of beauty.
Having read again the Old Testament book of Ruth, I agree that this definition matches Ruth, the main character of the book, and how she lived life. Her devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi, especially after the death of Naomi’s husband Elimelech, and Naomi’s own husband Mahlon, is highly admirable. Ruth’s willingness to stay with her mother-in-law, and go wherever she goes, while worshipping the God she worships, regardless of the possibility of remaining a poor widow and being totally dependent on the kindness of others, showed her commitment to Naomi. But this meant that she had to move far away from her birth family and their customs, not to mention their local gods. When she vowed to Naomi that she would remain faithful and loyal to her, Scripture says she CLUNG to her.

Compare that to Naomi’s other widowed daughter-in-law, Orpah. She made the same initial promise to Naomi to go with her to her home country, but that is not how it played out. After Naomi pressured both women to return to their families, Orpah withdrew her pledge, kissed Naomi, and left her, going back to her family. (I get her reasoning for going back home, but for me, this compares to a Judas kiss.)

Which woman displayed kindness? Compassion? Commitment?

For Ruth’s total devotion to her mother-in-law, Boaz, a distant family member of Naomi’s deceased husband, took notice of Ruth’s kindness and hard work, and soon married her. Here is what he said to Ruth:
“Boaz replied, ‘I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.'”
Ruth 2:11-12

As a result of Ruth’s “clinging” devotedly to Naomi, by not abandoning her in her greatest time of need, and by accepting Naomi’s lot in life and her God as her own, she was rewarded by becoming the great grandmother of King David!

May we choose to commit to the ones that God puts in our lives – our spouse, our children, our friends and neighbors, by completely devoting ourselves to their lives and needs – with a sacrificial love – in whatever area the Lord points out to us! Do we need to support them financially? Do we need to provide housing? Do we need to take better care of our elderly? How is the Lord asking you to devote yourself to someone?

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.”
1 Corinthians 16: 13-16

Food for thought:
– Commit, like a vine to a tree.
– Do it with all your might.
– Remember that actions speak louder than words.
– Don’t let go of the ones God puts in your life.

Fun facts: Vines can climb with tendrils or with other “grasping” appendages, or by coiling their stems. Climbing hydrangeas can grow up to 50′ tall!

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Old Barn enveloped in Vines