03 March 2014

Orpah: Over

Ruth 1

It is over.
And I am alone.

Those days with you
turn into dust,
fade away
into cold spaces
where you used to be.
Our hopes, our plans,
like dead leaves fly
and I am left

Every memory
is a knife to my heart -
little things,
little words,
attacking me
when I least expect it,
paralysing me.

I want to forget -
I don't want to forget -
I want to stay
in this space you've left behind,
before your warmth fades away -
and yet I want to leave.

Can I turn my back
on all these years,
go back to the start,
like waking from a dream?
Can I run home
like a little girl,
cry myself out,
dry my tears
and begin again?

Or shall I walk this stony road
to its bitter end,
get used to this knife
digging deep in my chest,
trust in your God
to give me another chance,
trust it's not over yet?

It is over.
I want to go home.


[24. Feb 2014] [during Philosophy class ;)]

Orpah was Ruth's sister-in-law. Both lost their husbands. Their mother-in-law Naomi gave them the option - no, even pressed them - to go back home. Orpah obeyed and went home - Ruth insisted on staying by Naomi's side. In Sunday school I think we often hear that Ruth made the better, more godly choice by staying with Naomi, and Orpah, who disappears for the rest of the story, is seen more negatively. Perhaps she should have stayed with Naomi. What makes Ruth's choice good and admirable is her insistence on loyalty, staying loyal to Naomi even though it meant probably never getting a chance to marry again. Being a widow in those days wasn't easy; Naomi and Ruth were practically destitute without a man to fend for them. Orpah returned to her home, and by doing so probably had a better chance of finding another husband.

Ruth is the one we look upon (rightly) as good example in this story - and yet that doesn't mean what Orpah did was full-out wrong. But the options the two of them had show us a bit what it was like to be a widow back then: how you could either go home and start again, or stay with your in-laws' family and have less chances. Ruth in the end was rewarded for taking the harder road.

Nowadays in many parts of the world (but not all - that we must remember too!) women without husbands have better chances than back then. Still, losing someone is absolutely not easy and one can be placed before a similar choice Orpah and Ruth had, with how to deal with what is past and what lies before. I tried to illustrate that moment of decision here.

Usually when this scene is illustrated, you see Ruth clinging to Naomi, while Orpah moves away, sometimes in the distance (e.g. this one by William Blake). I chose the picture you see here in the end, because it's a rare one where you see the three women together, before going their separate ways. I don't think we can say Orpah loved Naomi any less.

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