At a multi-generation women's conference in Alaska where I was about to speak, an older woman leaned over and whispered in the ear of the young girl sitting next to her, "Get ready!"
The young girl's eyes widened. "Why? Where are we going?"
The reply? "To the edge of your chair!"
No one ever whispered those words in my ear, but several years ago, quite unexpectedly I found myself on the edge of my chair too. I was listening to an academic lecture on the Old Testament Book of Ruth. The need for a warning, in both cases, was warranted—not to brace us for a nail-biting cliffhanger, but to alert us that what we were about to hear would forever change how we view ourselves and our mission in this world. We were about to be called into the big story God is weaving, in a bigger way than we ever imagined.
For generations the church has tended to look at the women in the Bible through the wrong end of the telescope. Guided by the assumption that God does his most important kingdom work through men, we've seen women's lives in a diminished perspective and, as a result, our own lives have appeared smaller too.
I never will forget the day someone turned the telescope around for me. Seeing the lives of women in Scripture in true perspective not only enriched my understanding of God's purposes for them, it raised the bar for what God calling on my life and heightened my expectations of what he might do through me.
Believe me; I was on the edge of my chair!
Perhaps the shock effect of this on me wouldn't have been as great, if I'd been hearing about great women leaders like Deborah, Esther, or Priscilla. I was hardly prepared to hear bold leadership attributed to the Ruth the Moabitess! Isn't Naomi's devoted daughter-in-law supposed to be the icon of female submissiveness? Yet suddenly, I'm hearing leading Old Testament scholars describe her as a gutsy risk taker, the initiator of the story's action, the re-interpreter of Mosaic Law, and the clear leader in the story.
Boaz is the responder. He listens to her proposals, is stunned by her sacrificial love for Naomi, and follows her lead by putting his full weight behind her righteous cause.
And here's the kicker. God works through Ruth not only to rescue Naomi's family, but also to advance His purposes for the world, for the line Ruth fights valiantly to save ultimately leads to Jesus.
This turned things upside down for me. The implications were earthshaking. In a single hour, both the young girl in Alaska and I saw our lives go from black and white to Technicolor as we were awakened to God's calling on our lives, our responsibility to live boldly for him, and what is at stake if we don't. It was just the tip of the iceberg.