The Family We Choose
One of my favorite stories in the bible is the story of Ruth.
Ruth looses her husband, her father-in-law, and her brother-in-law in quick succession. Rather than return to her own family and people, she chooses to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Eventually she finds and marries Boaz, a kinsman of her deceased husband.
One of the main points that appeals to me about this story is the idea that we, to an extent, choose our people.
I am a firm believer that people come in to our lives for a reason. Naomi’s family went to Moab because of a famine and ended up finding wives for her sons, and when tragedy struck the family, one of those wives took care of Naomi. Naomi in turn led Ruth to her future husband, which started a new family line that would result in David. In my own circle, there are many intricate connections between people that have led me to where I am today. My best friend, who I met under strange circumstances, introduced me to my future husband. A professor in my undergraduate program, through about 4 links, led me to my current graduate school supervisor. Another dear friend led me to feminism and The Exponent and all the lovely people here. An old neighbor and friend had family on the other side of the country who adopted me when I moved to their area.
On a small scale, this teaches me to be open to new people (which is easier said than done for this deeply introverted soul), and gives new meaning to Alma 37:6 – “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” You can never be sure who is going to end up impacting your life.
On a ‘big-picture’ scale, it reinforces to me that we are all connected. We are all part of a cosmic and eternal network. I sometimes think our focus on family in the church is misplaced. While the nuclear family is certainly important and influential, how would our hearts and minds be changed if we focused on eternal family as encompassing all mankind? We are all brothers and sisters, after all. Our heavenly parents are the parents of us all.
And what does this mean for feminism? Well, I’m still figuring this one out. But it certainly points toward the importance of intersectionality. If we are all connected, then my actions must impact those around me, and probably in ways I don’t understand. And if those around me are my brothers and sisters, then it is my job to learn all that I can from them about how I can make that impact a positive one. Ruth listened to Naomi about how to behave in Bethlehem, because Naomi was the expert. When I move in spaces that are not mine, I hope I can do the same.