” … a beautifully written contribution to our collective remembering that Jesus calls us to suffer, and that our greatest acts of love can produce suffering bigger than we thought our hearts could hold.”
Meadow Rue Merrill’s memoir, “Redeeming Ruth,” offers a holy antidote to the strain of Christianity that demands happiness and success as the outward and visible signs of our God’s inward and spiritual graces. Meadow Rue Merrill dreams big and lives where God puts her, which means she often lives in the discomfort of a person who feels out of her place. She hopes to serve God among African orphans, but finds herself a small town wife and mother to a growing family. Money is tight enough that it takes hard work, ingenuity and trust in God just to get by, even before a layoff decimates the most carefully managed financial plans. She trains her children in the words and the ways of God, even while she wonders: Did it mean anything that I dreamed of serving God’s orphans from Africa? Is this dream forever deferred?
Then God puts before the Merrill family an opportunity. Would they adopt a disabled orphaned infant from Uganda?
The prospect is staggering, seemingly impossible. But the costs of the adoption appear, piece by faith-filling piece, just at the moments they are required. Visas and other travel documents are completed literally moments after they are required – and are accepted despite being late. These are the “miracle” stories that build faith.
Then comes the rest of the story. Living with Ruth as part of their family requires overwhelming levels of effort, as every special needs parent knows and no one else can truly imagine. Merrill gives an outstanding picture of both the challenges and rewards, for herself, her husband, and Ruth’s three siblings. She draws the reader along as she alternately spirals into joyful hope and collapses into doubt and despair.
Adopting Ruth allows Merrill the long-desired chance to visit Africa. There, instead of serving orphans she meets African Christians who care for orphans and whose faith inspires her.
In the long run, adopting Ruth requires the Merrill family to live through the heartbreak of finding their much loved, much wanted daughter dead in her sleep – a not uncommon result of her disability. Merrill is transparent about her long struggle with self-accusation and guilt after Ruth’s death, but stays in her story instead of getting stuck in her own head.
Merrill is a veteran journalist, using her habit of collecting facts to amass the context and details for this beautifully told story. The reader sees what Merrill has seen, falters when she falters, celebrates when she celebrates, attempts with her to draw on God’s strength in challenging times. Only at rare moments does she allow her readers to hear a few of the difficult “objective” journalist’s facts she learned along this journey: How many children from Uganda are orphaned, how few options there are for disabled children in the non-Western world, how Ruth’s disability could have been prevented by a medical test that costs less than $1.
“Remembering Ruth” is a beautifully written contribution to our collective remembering that Jesus calls us to suffer, and that our greatest acts of love can produce suffering bigger than we thought our hearts could hold. I will recommend this book to everyone I know who is in grief.