I remember the first time this concept was brought to my attention. I was a staff member at a retreat my church at the time did every year for teens. In fact, this was one of the sessions I was helping out with. We filled a small blowup pool with water and provided small rocks that we had collected beforehand. We stood in front of the group and explained to them how each person makes a difference just as each pebble (or rock) makes ripples. And one ripple leads to another for who knows how long. We then gave them an assignment for the weekend: each time they found someone making a positive difference at the retreat, they were to go up to them and let them know. Then both of them were to go to the pool, and the one who was singled out was to drop a rock in the pool. Everybody makes a difference somewhere.
Imagine what would have happened if a daughter-in-law, after losing her husband, went back home to her family as her mother-in-law had asked. If that had happened, then two great kings would never have been born, and a chunk of the Bible would be missing. That woman was Ruth. Naomi was a widow, and her two sons, after being married to Ruth and Orpah for ten years, also passed away. At that time Naomi told her daughters-in-law to go back home. “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me.” (Ru 1:8) At her insistence, Orpah did decide to leave, but Ruth refused. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ru 1:16,17)
From that day on Ruth stayed with Naomi in Bethlehem where they had traveled to from Moab, back to where Naomi had lived with her husband and sons before the famine. Ruth made another decision at that time. She chose to listen to whatever Naomi told her. Because of that choice she married Boaz, and together they had a son. “Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ru 4:16,17) So, if Ruth, like Orpah, returned to her home, she never would have gone to Bethlehem, never married Boaz, and King David, the man after God’s own heart, never would have been born. And from the line of David came Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, King of the Jews.
Another woman in the Bible also made a decision that changed life as we know it. Ruth started the line of David, and from there Mary and Joseph were born. The decision Mary had to make when the angel Gabriel came to her was not an easy one for she would not only be putting her reputation at stake, but she was also risking her life. If no one believed her that she was still a virgin and had not slept with another man, she could have been stoned to death. But the only question she asked of Gabriel was, “How?” (Lk 1:34) And when he explained it to her, finishing with, “For nothing is impossible with God,” (Lk 1:37), she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. […] May it be to me as you have said.” (Lk 1:38) And because of that decision Jesus was born.
Both Ruth and Mary had decisions they needed to make, decisions that may have seemed small to them at the time, and through those decisions many people, many nations, have been blessed. If you read through the Bible you will find examples of this all over the place. If you look in today’s world you may also see different examples of this. Look around, see what’s making a difference now, and see if you can follow it back to the first person. How far do you think you would have to go? Mary made the decision to say, “Yes,” but before that could happen, Ruth had to make her decision to stay with Naomi and do as she was told.
May we all remember that a decision we make today may make a difference in time yet to come, no matter how big or how small it may seem. And may all our decisions be with selflessness, and with trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.