I've spent a good portion of my life being unkind. Not an up in your face bully, more of a cowardly, whispering the hurts bestowed on me by others in an attempt to drag them down in misery beside me.
Gossiping by repeating stories that weren't mine to claim a personal investment in.
A fiery tongue of uncredited opinions.
I've spent many days of my life wallowing in bitterness and allowing my mouth to unleash every emotion felt, uncaring about how it effected the people on the receiving end of those resentful whispers.
The interesting effect this had was that bitterness, and a generally selfish nature of being quick to speak and slow to listen, separated me from not just the people who hurt me, but also the beautiful souls who I tried to bring into my dramatics.
No one likes being around someone who justifies every negative feeling and this left me more often than not, on the fringe of quality friendships.
Even when given new opportunities, and with my heart realizing I was the majority of the problem, I was hesitant to set roots into friendships because I now felt that I had only proved myself as a miserable friend, I didn't trust myself to fall back into old habits. I had separated myself from friendships with my own toxic behaviour.
Then I read the book of Ruth.
I can't say it painted an appealing picture.
An unfortunate woman loses her spouse, then leaves everything to follow a mourning mother-in-law who's grief caused her to rename herself as "bitter". Ruth, regardless of this glum companion, stuck by her mother-in-law's side.
In hopes of finding a way to get through a hard season, Ruth ends up in an unknown field, gleaning behind women she doesn't know. (This is where my heart immediately jumped, feeling captivated at the imagery of this.) In desperation she bravely finds herself in a situation that would be uncomfortable, and still chooses to humbly follow women she doesn't know, reaping their leftover harvest.
Those women in the field likely spent the time digging in hard soil, tedious planting, tending to the weeds, and nurturing growth. Ruth showed up late to the game and had done nothing to contribute to the harvest. But she was allowed to gradually fill her basket with things dropped by the women who walked before her.
When Boaz saw her in the field and how great her need was, he commanded the women to purposefully drop grain, being intentional with what they left behind for her.
While this story was far from new to me, for the first time I felt like I saw Ruth.
I saw my own empty basket and my soul hungry for a God-filled life. For truth-speaking relationships, purpose-filled conversations, and for my bitterness to melt into something fruitful rather than draining.
Slowly my eyes were opened to the women around me who had been intentionally letting love and fruits of the spirit overflow from their own baskets into my life. Lessons slowly taught over coffee and playground conversations. Sharing the weight of hardships and offers of prayer. Kind words of encouragement when I made mistakes. Soft critiques when I needed reminders of the sour tone in my voice.
I realized my bitterness had blinded me to what God had placed right in front of me, I just had to look up from my feet.
Who do you see when you look up?
Who is walking before you? Who are you following closely to learn from? Who is intentionally filling your basket and is it life giving?
More importantly, who is walking behind you?
Are you casting judgmental glances to the women who weren’t digging & planting into their lives at the same time as you? Has someone that has seemingly showed up unprepared for the life you’ve been working hard at tending and growing looking for love or friendship that you’re denying? Are you leaving something sustaining behind for the women whose baskets are empty?
This is still something I work at, and thankfully I have a few people who have the courage to remind me if and when I start to slip down that slope of toxic behaviour.
God brought women in strategic places to show me the way. They were a few steps ahead of me and were gracious with my showing up at harvest when I didn't help with the planting. They dropped little pieces of encouragement and Gods truth for me to glean, they allowed me to come alongside, slowly learn how to be a better friend and most importantly a woman living for God.
I have entered a new season, eager to be free of the negativity that previously held me in a lonely place, Now I pray for women to be put in my path, and I look to see if there's anyone behind me needing extra.
I think I'll always grieve for the friendships lost over the years of my poor choices or lack of nourishment, as I'm pretty sure there were some gems in there full of wisdom I'll miss out on.
But I let go of who I used to be and walk bravely into the unknown because I know God is right beside me with each step - a modern day Ruth.
About the Author:
Kristin is proudly married to a handsome craftsman named Chip and is the mediocre mother of two mischievous children, named Clark & Norah. By the grace of God, she is a recovering mean girl, striving daily to be kinder than yesterday. She has a heart for women, hearing their stories and finding ways to make them feel loved & to laugh through hard days. She enjoys long books that inspire her to do better, drinking strong coffee and especially thrives on the company of friends who don’t expect her to clean before play dates.
If you would like to send Kristin a message, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put her name in the subject line!