Now Elimelek, Naomi’s’ husband, died and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. – Ruth 1:3-4 (NIV)
Naomi’s sons married a little but not a lot outside their tribe. Then again, maybe her sons’ marriages paved the way for Naomi to become a belonger to a new tribe, a female one, the gendered kind of tribe that matters a little more than most people think it does.
Consider the tribe of old retired men at the morning diner, 6:30 prompt. Three cups of coffee later, they feel like they can face their days. Think about the last conversation you had with a woman friend about the 2020 primaries, or the tribes of women voters in the 2016 and 2020 presidential election seasons.
Along comes Mother’s Day season with a story about Elimelek dying, a woman being left with her two sons who married into the Moabite tribe. Belonging to a tribe is really important – especially when we exhibit the freedom to live outside of one as well as in one. Belonging can be a bear if we overdo it. It can be a joy if we do it. Elimelek’s dying made way for a new kind of tribe, for his sons and for his widow.
This Mother’s Day, I appreciate the tribe of women. The tribe that challenged swim coaches who tried to harass their daughters. The tribe that took great risks to protect the life of the next generation, like the mother who “stole” eggs at 3 a.m. from a neighbor’s chickens so her daughter could grow strong. The tribe of Women’s Fellowships (what a funny word now) who bonded woman-to-woman around mission, ministry, and shared miseries and joys. An award should be given to every woman who ever led a Bible study.
Mother-Father God, we love you very much. All of you and all your tribes. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.