Before we began the story of Ruth, Greg shared background information about where the story fits into God's timeline. He emphasized that Ruth happened during the time of judges when all were doing things in their own way which was contrary to God. He also shared that the Moabite nation was an enemy to Israel and cursed by God.
I took the time to explain that God chose to use a widowed Moabite to teach Israel the lesson of loyal love (chesed in Hebrew or translated as kindness in English). This is key to the story because the LORD has loyal love for us and we should demonstrate loyal love like Ruth did for Naomi.
I then told the story twice. It wasn't until Senda retold the story back to me that I realized in both of my tellings I skipped the line where Naomi thanked her daughter-in-laws for their kindness or loyal love to their dead husband's and her and asked God to give them rest in a new marriage.
Seriously, I missed it twice even after telling them how important this is to the entire text. Ugh!
So, when Senda was done telling, I told her, "I am so sorry. I just realized as your were telling, I missed the most important line twice." I then explained the line to her and Abel and told them where it went in this story.
I asked if I needed to retell so they would know where it went in the story. They said, "No." They got it and understood.
This is one way an oral culture and a literate culture differ. An oral culture can hear parts of a story in a circular way. It doesn't bother them for us to to say, "Oh I forgot this part. It goes here." For them it makes sense. They get it and they do not need the linear outline. Where a literate person feels that they have hurt the story if it is not linear.
John Walsh helped me understand this by saying that we should think of it like a family telling a story at the dinner table over and over. It may not be told the same everytime because different people tell it. But the same story is told. The content is in tact, but the order may fluctuate.
I have noticed through the years that this happens as my friends in eastern cultures retell a Bible story. This can be because people from eastern cultures focus on the big picture of a story while people in western cultures focus on the details. Neither are wrong. Both are a perspective. Our perspective can cause a shift in how we hear a story and retell a story and as a trainer of cross cultures I find myself in this different perspective periodically.
Sometimes, if I do notice a mess up I will do a retelling with a story correction and then point it out or ask if they noticed I added something. With this couple, I don't need to because I know their skill level and ability to tell.
I also provide audio recordings and YouTube recordings for future reference and accuracy checks. I also provide the drawings as a resource. These are helpful.
The other resource that helped me better understand this ambiguity was the Bible. One year as I read through Acts, I realized that they told the story of Jesus over and over but differently each time. It was reordered with each audience and parts were emphasized and other parts removed based on who was telling and the people group. All were accurate, but a little different.
We must remember that the Bible was first orally created in an eastern culture.
This does not mean that we should add our commentary, devotional thought, or preach what we think it means when we are telling a Bible story. Those need to be dealt with outside of the telling of the sacred text. They have their place for explaining and helping people understand a text, but should not happen when the text is being told as a whole. We need to keep the sacred sacred. This is why we use clear beginnings and endings when we tell a Bible story.
Everything in the Bible is true and in Ruth, we are told...
...May God honor the telling of His Word!
A good storyteller will mess up. For me, it felt like a royal ugh! Yet, my friend's just nodded and made the mental story correction.
Have you ever told a Bible story and had to make a correction after skipping a part? What happened? What did you learn from it?