What’s In a Name? Mara’s Story

By Jordan Stafford

Imagine being so dehydrated after only drinking coffee for three days straight that you change your name to “Dehydrated.” I don’t know about you, but only drinking coffee is 100% something that I might do. In fact, sometimes I feel that coffee is the fuel that motivates me to do just about anything! (Even as I write this, I am drinking my second cup of coffee for the day, and it’s only 9 a.m.) Changing my name to mirror this fact may seem silly, but it is something we have seen before. In the book of Ruth, we read that Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, changes her name to resemble her reality of being bitter–rather than my reality of being dehydrated.

A name can be used to describe someone and identify them. Thinking back on my example, being named Dehydrated would essentially define who I am as a person. In Scripture, we see this more commonly. For instance, in Hebrew, Moses means to “pull or draw out,” in this case, Moses was drawn from the Nile River as seen in Exodus 2, mirroring his reality of being found in the reeds of the Nile. So, the fact that Naomi changed her name to Mara, meaning “bitterness,” exemplifies the fact that she is indeed bitter and is choosing to identify as such. The name Naomi means “pleasant or amiable,” which appears to be the opposite of Mara, the name she chose for herself. Unlike Moses, who did not choose his own name, Naomi did, again exemplifying her resolve to remain bitter.

Early in the book of Ruth, we see that Naomi’s husband and sons had all died, leaving her in a place of desolation. In this time period, women were not allowed to own property and were often thought of as property themselves. No longer being married meant that they would soon lose their wealth and land. This sets the stage for why Naomi feels bitter. She has spent her life married to her husband and building their lives together; however, the moment that he died, Naomi lost all that she had built with him. In fact, as we continue reading, not only is she bitter because of her cultural setting, but she blames God for taking her husband from her. We read in Ruth 1:21 of this reality. Not only has she lost her husband and the wealth they had accumulated, but she also lost her two sons, leaving her and her daughter-in-laws with no one to provide for them.

It is hard for any of us to imagine the stress of this situation as women today are not viewed as property and are allowed to own cars, houses, and other necessities. However, consider the reality if you were Ruth and Naomi. Their future had never been so uncertain as it is in this moment. And this terrifying fact consumes Naomi, causing her to dwell in that pain as seen in the very distinct decision to change her name to Mara. She became utterly consumed in feeling sorry for herself and dwelling in bitterness, based on her belief that God had “taken” the men in her life. Mara was unable to move forward or to see God’s provision as Ruth met and married Boaz who then took care of them. She refused to bury her skewed perception on the situation which leads me to wonder, What in my life am I refusing to bury in spite of God’s provision?

As you meditate on this question, know that you are loved, and I pray that you have open ears to hear God’s voice this week.

About the Author
In addition to drinking inordinate amounts of coffee, Jordan is currently serving as an intern with Kid City at GCR. She is a senior at Liberty University and will graduate in the fall. Along with receiving a diploma in Youth Ministry, Jordan is looking forward to marrying her best friend that same week. God is calling her to a lifetime of ministry, and she plans to someday have a blog of her own and write curriculum for a girl’s ministry.

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