by Mazzy Adams
I’m sure I am not alone in my belief that the best stories are layered with treasures. Some are obvious. Others await discovery. Every reader is, in a sense, a treasure hunter. Not all seek the same treasure, or look for it in the same way, or value the same things. Which means ... the potential to glean a reward from time spent reading is … unlimited. How exciting is that! A thousand readers can read a story, and still leave rich pickings for the next thousand. And every reader that finds a literary treasure will likely return to that particular field again, eager to … glean.
I’m pretty sure the first time I heard the word ‘glean’ was when my mother read the Bible story of Ruth and Boaz to me from Egermeier's Bible Story Book when I was young. (The illustration below comes from that book.) The Book of Ruth has all the elements of a great love story. It starts with the tragedy of Naomi losing her husband and both sons, shows how the care and obedience that Ruth, a Moabite, showed to her Hebrew mother-in-law combined with Ruth’s own initiative to help them overcome adversity and receive a blessed future through Ruth’s marriage to Boaz. A neat epilogue reveals that this ‘stranger and an alien’ received a place in the ancestry of King David.
I recently unearthed another treasure in this story … the principle of gleaning.
What does it mean to ‘glean’? The dictionary says it means to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit, to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers, or to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly. In Leviticus chapter 19, the Bible reveals the principle of gleaning is an expression – a demonstration if you will – of holiness, as those who produced a harvest deliberately left gleanings behind for the poor and the alien to gather. Boaz’s obedience to this God-given principle released God’s blessing not only on Ruth, but upon himself; one could say that theirs was a union of holiness from the moment they met.
What does ‘gleaning’ (and Ruth’s experience of it) have to do with writing? Here are a few grains of inspiration I've gathered:
Ruth started from a position of desperate need, but instead of complaining, giving up, or becoming bitter, she took the initiative and went searching for something that would improve her situation. The writer’s road is not an easy one. It can be lonely and fruitless at times. Discouragement is understandable but, like Ruth, we can choose to take the initiative and search out fruitful connections (like Christian Writers Downunder) and gather nourishing solutions.
When Ruth found the field of Boaz, she recognised the value of his gleanings. Over and over and over again, I have benefited from the rich gleanings ‘left behind’ by writers and editors who already know how to produce a bountiful harvest. I have learned to return again and again to safe, productive fields … especially those which demonstrate Godly holiness … to glean from those blogs, links, social media posts, newsletters etc that are filled with wisdom and inspiration. These nourish my ability to also sow seed so that others may glean from my fields, thus spreading and perpetuating the harvest and the blessings.
Boaz was blessed, not only for his generosity, but also because he encouraged Ruth to return to his field to glean. Boy, did that produce interesting results! When Boaz shared freely from his wealth and substance, he reaped far more than a good barley harvest. He gained a wife and together they produced an amazing family legacy. To all those faithful bloggers and sharers of writerly advice and wisdom who just may, occasionally, wonder if all those freely offered gleanings are worth the time and effort it takes to produce them, I offer my heartfelt encouragement and appreciation. I pray that, like Boaz, you will be blessed, sustained, renewed … and made famous throughout the land. (We are writers, after all!)
Have you, like me, discovered safe, holy, productive fields from which you’ve gleaned writerly wisdom and nourishment? I would love to see them receive recognition, appreciation and blessings in the comments.
Mazzy Adams is an Australian wife, mother, grandmother, creative and academic writing tutor and published author with a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people.