Courage – Orpah’s teaching

2017 10 31 SCM York Reflection

There’s a guy who comes to our Bible studies every Monday. He comes to practice his English, and he always apologizes for not being religious, and says he’s not a good person to be there. I disagree. I’m very grateful for the perspectives he brings to our discussions.

Recently we discussed the book of Ruth, he helped us remember that it’s okay and important to think about the background characters of a story. Naomi and Ruth are the protagonists, but there is another woman, Orpah. Orpah is important to think about. The story doesn’t go into detail about her, but she starts in the same situation as Ruth. After their husbands pass away, mother-in-law Naomi tells both Orpah and Ruth to leave and find husbands in Moab, their own country, where they might have a better chance at a good life. Orpah and Ruth cry and argue about leaving, but after Naomi persists, Orpah agrees to leave. Ruth refuses and insists on going with Naomi, who can’t provide for her, can’t guarantee her remarriage, can’t guarantee her survival. The narrative continues with Ruth and Naomi, and Orpah’s role in this story is over.

SCMer preparing a table at York University
The author prepares a table to be flipped at another SCM discussion group at York University

But our study group member identified with Orpah. He came to Canada a few years ago. He said he was weak, that when he encounters conflict, he runs. When someone is resisting violence, he stays quiet because he doesn’t want to be harmed by standing up. He said he left because, even though he had a good life, had a good post as a professor, and was comfortable, he didn’t like some things about his country. He came to Canada. He said if he didn’t like it here, he’d find another country.

He said all of this like it was a bad thing. He challenged me to think about his experience. I’m not someone who stays quiet about injustice and I know I can be confrontational when encouraging others to do so as well. But if you choose not to because you’re safe and you’re afraid of that changing, because you know you could be harmed and you’re not ready for that or you can’t risk that, you have the right to protect yourself and your safety.

And when he said he chose to leave, and that he thinks he’s weak for it, I didn’t see weakness but bravery. He took a huge risk in leaving for a country with a foreign language and culture. He went into a whole new discipline than the one in which he had his Ph.D. He went back to do another undergrad degree. He comes to school every day not knowing a lot of people and not having a strong support system or network of friends.

He’s brave, and strong, like Orpah.

That’s okay.