Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs recently sat down with christianaudio to talk about her book The Girl’s Still Got It, now available in audio format. Liz talks about her love for the story of Ruth and Naomi, how it changed her life, and why she wants you to give it a listen.
christianaudio: In your opinion, why is the story of Ruth so important for Christian women today?
LCH: I’m used to exploring women of the Bible who get 10 verses or 20 verses, but here’s a woman who has an entire book dedicated to her story. So that tells us how important it really is. The big thing about the book of Ruth though, and, therefore, The Girls’ Still Got It, is that we are looking at a much bigger picture than just the story of a man, a woman and a mother-in-law. God is painting a much bigger picture to include all of redemption to let people understand that we’re all Ruth, we all need to be redeemed, and He is our Boaz.
christianaudio: What is the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about Ruth or Naomi during your research for this book?
LCH: You know, it is as much Naomi’s story as it is Ruth’s. That was one of the first big aha’s for me – it’s not just the younger woman who grows and has a happy ending – Naomi goes from tragedy to triumph as well. Naomi is often pictured as this loving, caring mother-in-law, and that’s a lovely thought, but the women you actually read about in the Bible is whiny, whiny, whiny when you first meet her. And she has a right to be – my goodness, the woman lost her husband, and then both of her sons, she’s stuck with two Moabite daughters – for a nice Israelite woman this is a bad place to be and she knew it. So she starts at the bottom and it’s this steady rise until this incredible redemption at the end where a baby boy is laid in her arms. Naomi needs to be redeemed as well – Boaz redeems Ruth by marrying her, but for Naomi the redemption comes with the birth of a child in her husband’s house.
christianaudio: You’ve said in other interviews that one of the reasons you were drawn to the story of Ruth was because of the unusual relationship there between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. How did writing this book challenge you in your roles as both a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law?
LCH: Well, if you have a difficult relationship with your mother-in-law do not read the book of Ruth, because it will not leave you alone. When you look at the story of this incredibly faithful young woman – and when you understand that Naomi was not pleasant to be around – you see that she pledged her life to her as much as any wedding vow. When I read that, I thought to myself, how am I doing on this? I realized what I needed to do was just love my mother-in-law, not simply do the “right things” as a daughter-in-law, but actually love her unconditionally, over-the-top, like Ruth did.
The other thing is, I became a mother-in-law when I was working on the book. Suddenly I’m sitting on the other side of the table. It helped me understand what my mother-in-law needed from me, and also helped me vocalize to my darling daughter-in-law how much she meant to me.
LCH: The first thing I do when I research any new biblical character is look at the verses in 40 different English translations, as well as the original Hebrew. Once I’ve got the language sorted, I go through verse-by-verse and I write what moves me, I raise questions, and record observations. I pray through it because I want to hear from God before I hear from commentaries. So then the commentaries come. I pull all that together and then I do the research on the time and place. I really like to understand, in that time and place, what would they have worn, how would they have spent their days. Reading those details through puts some flesh on the words so we’re seeing, and smelling, and tasting the same things that Ruth and Naomi were.
christianaudio: That’s such a special way to experience the Bible. So many times we read the words, but we don’t take it to the place and time and feel those things with our senses. That’s what’s so unique about your writing style.
LCH: It’s a little different. I think it’s partly because I’m a novelist. It’s easy to always be describing what you see, but really the other senses need to be involved for it to be a 3D experience.
christianaudio: This book, like most of your others, is written in the verse-by-verse format. What do you hope this format offers the reader?
LCH: I think anytime we look at individual bits and phrases, by the time we’re done with this book, we know Ruth’s story backwards and forwards. It’s sort of like if you eat a delicious dish, you want to know what the ingredients are. So that’s what I’m basically doing – deconstructing the recipe and pulling apart the words so we can taste each one, savor it in our mouths, and see what it might mean to us personally.
christianaudio: You recently recorded the book for christianaudio. What stood out to you while going through it again, three years after it was published? LCH: I’ve been taking Ruth’s story onto the stage in the last three years and I’ve gotten feedback on the story. I’ve had people tell me how things in Ruth’s story have impacted their lives, and so it deepens and enriches the whole experience for me. Even as I’m reading words on the script, what’s running through my mind is all the real life stuff that sits beneath the words for me.
Also, the beauty of audiobook is I get to be the voice in your head. I get to whisper right in my reader’s ear the thoughts that I had, and the intonations and emotions. christianaudio: Finally, what would you want to say to encourage those who have not read (or listened to) the book to pick it up?
LCH: This is a story that transcends time. It is as current as right now, 2015, and yet it is ancient, about 1200 BC. There is a love story at the heart of it, but a very different type of romance – this is love at a higher plane, this is love in a sacrificial way. It’s really what God’s love looks like, come to earth.
I want you to meet these characters. I want you to meet Boaz. I want you to see the real Naomi, so you can celebrate the redemption she experiences after heartache. And, of course, I want you to meet Ruth, who quietly and gently leads the way.