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Home is Where the Heart Is

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Summer 2020 Series: The Story of Ruth (Part 2 of 6)

This is part of a series of reflections, exploring the short story of Ruth, from the Old Testament. Today we focus on Orpah in Ruth chapter 1, verses 6-18.

In this reflection I have taken inspiration from the Biblical text but added some imaginings. What we learn about Orpah is that she married Naomi’s son and following the death of Naomi’s two sons and husband, was invited by Naomi to return to Naomi’s homeland with her. When Naomi told Ruth and Orpah that they were free to return to their kin, Orpah decided to go back whilst Ruth continued with Naomi.

They say home is where the heart is, but mine is broken and lost.

My heart was with my husband, Chilion and he is dead.

My heart was full of dreams of a long contented marriage:

Chilion would get fat, so would I, our children would be bonny and brainy, we would be rich in laughter and love.

Satisfied, with a simple dream that filled my heart.

A broken heart is no use for holding dreams. They’ve all spilled out. Broken heart, broken dreams.

No children.

Dead husband.

Broken heart.

If home is where the heart is, I must have no home.

They say home is where the heart is but mine is broken and lost.

Family was everything to me. Orpah, the Moabite.

Close to my father - he had the son he wanted first so I was a welcome addition, no disappointment in a daughter when the heir, the son, has come first.

A mirror to my mother - everyone said that even the stillest pool wouldn’t reflect my mother’s face a well as my features do! And what a complement, she’s beautiful, I love to watch as her laughter springs from her belly and the lines around her eyes crunch into a happy fan. She says that a happy marriage and healthy children keep the giggles gurgling.

Friend to my brothers - not everyone can say that, so many families with schisms and splits, threats and fights. Not us, we’re close.

So you can imagine their surprise when I ignored family tradition, left behind the family gods and followed my straying heart…

If home is where the heart is, how come my heart strayed to love a foreigner?

An Ephrathite, not just a different tribe but almost impossible to pronounce - try saying it on your wedding night after a full on feast!

They might well have traveled here to escape famine but their hearts had never left the land of their precious Yahweh!

All kinds of strange behaviours, praying to a God they cannot see. How can you hold faith in something you can’t hold?

But I could hold Chilion, I trusted him, gave him all my heart, made him my home. Made his family mine.

So who am I now he is gone? Who are my people? Where do I belong?

If home is where the heart is and your love has died, where is home and where is my heart?

They say home is where the heart is but mine is broken and lost.

So imagine the healing power of her words when his mother, my mother by marriage, somehow from the depths of her grief wholeheartedly invites me to go and find the rest of her clan, to make a home in the land that grew the family which brought me love.

An invitation to go and find the source of my love! A summons to seek the origins of a full heart. A cathartic call to the care of cousins and kind aunts!

And so we started out. Hunger accompanied us from the start; hunger is not a helpful travel companion. Naomi, Ruth and I walked at a steady pace. Gentle tears on each of our cheeks as journeying forced us to accept our reason for leaving, three widows, three bereavements, three broken, aching hearts.

As we started the invitation and destination were clear but with each step, what we were leaving obscured my vision.

This new mother by marriage is not the face I first saw as an infant, not the mother that bore me, hers are not the hands that nurtured me. How could I continue to walk toward Judah when my mother, whose face is my face, is grieving my departure from Moab? Leaving a broken bit of my heart behind.

As three women walking we go without the inheritance or protection that can only be offered by a man - why would I travel without protection when all the shelter of my father’s tent can safely embrace me? Abandon another broken bit of my heart?

Why would I walk away with a stranger sister and foreigner mother when my friend and blood brother is at home? More fragments of my fragile heart.

Each step a bigger distance from the dream of growing contentedly fat and old. Each step a pace away from the resting place of my Chilion. Each step is a betrayal of the ways of my people. I move away from where my own heart and home have always been as I move towards this new family, a new place and their strange invisible God.

One foot in front of another and with each swing of my legs another fragment of my broken heart calls me back to my home land.

So when Naomi falters, hesitates and says,

“Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.”

Her words unlock me from my bond to her family, I am released from the absurdity of trying to conjure faith in her and the one God she tells me is greater than all others. I am free to return to gather the broken bits of my heart.

Ruth is as much a mystery to me as their invisible God. Somehow from her grief she can make a wholehearted commitment to Naomi. She says faith has made it so.

They say home is where the heart is and I am returning to mine, broken and lost as it may be.

Questions for further discussion and reflection

  • Are there dreams filling your heart that squeeze God out?

  • Orpah’s focus is on the broken and lost fragments of her heart. Are there griefs and losses that make it hard for you to focus on living well, love and God?

  • Naomi invites Orpah to journey and adventure with her and her God. Who can you walk with to get closer to living in God’s Kingdom?

Sonya Doragh


You may like to listen to our Podcast which accompanies this Blog. Click here.

You may also enjoy watching our Sunday gathering related to this Blog, where you can hear this message along with worship and prayer. This video was originally aired via Facebook LIVE on Sunday 2nd August 2020.

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