I can do it myself! Have you ever had someone emphatically express this to you? There’s a good chance that person was about 2 years old. And if you made any indication that you were about to help them – they might have thrown a humungous tantrum.
Of course, toddlers don’t corner the market on “I can do it myself”. It seems like once we start on the path of independence, specifically or especially in the United States, we continue to believe that independence is a virtue. One that we should uphold even if it means we suffer and struggle.
As your pastor, I see this all the time. Instead of people reaching out for help – they struggle through. Often, I learn of the struggles long after they have passed. Sometimes, I am sure that if the person had reached out, we could have helped. But it seems like people think reaching out is a sin. Forbidden in some way if people are mature and complete. Well guess what, that is a story we tell ourselves. That is a cultural construction that plays in our head. And it’s a construction that goes against the very heart of our faith. People in the Bible do not journey alone. They journey in community – we should take note.
In his analysis of this morning’s scripture passage, Brent Strawn an Old Testament Professor at Candler School of Theology notes that, “Naomi is determined to be alone in her grief.” In fact, just a few verses after our reading this morning – Naomi goes a step further and says that clearly the Lord has afflicted misfortune on her. She believes God is somehow willing what is happening to her – she believes she is being punished for something – and that she endures the affliction alone.