life as a stranger
what does it mean to be bound to a people who are “other?” to see your identity in someone that is a stanger? or, in a different light, what does it mean to be the stranger? the other? these are some questions that i believe are central to the issues of our christian identity narrated through the lens of immigrant reality.
in this piece entitled, ruth and naomi, by the artist he qi, i am reminded of such a story in the old testament about a daughter-in-law, ruth, who had decided to leave the only land she knew in hopes of being bound to a new people, a new land, through her mother-in-law naomi. it is a story of a woman who saw her identity so closely bound to her husband’s people that she chose to become the stranger as a moabite in bethlehem. in ruth 1:16 she tells naomi,
where you go i will go, and where you stay i will stay. your people will be my people and your god my god….
what does this mean? why is this so profound?
for those who have been to my home in seattle, you know that this artwork stands prominently as the focal point in our living room. it is not only a reminder of my immigrant parents who each, in their own way, struggled with the overpowering pull of assimilation, but more profoundly, it is a reminder of my own struggles of placedness and identity, both culturally and as a christian.
though i am an asian-american woman, more specifically, a korean-american woman, i have often found my home/refuge/comfort to be amongst a people whom most koreans have historically considered as “others”- the african-american community. in friendships, in communities of worship, in my affinities, and ultimately in my spouse, i have found a freedom, love, embrace with a people who i now cannot see myself without. however, like many things that are worth something, it has been costly.
as the painting so intimately depicts, our binding to another that blurs the very lines of where one begins and the other ends, is the binding that christ calls each of us to – to a people who may be strange to us, foreign, or alien to all that makes us comfortable. in this way, are we willing to be the stanger? to be the one who picks the fields after another, who waits for the other to determine our livelihood?
friends, this is the space where christ dwells. it is in christ’s body where all are bound together. may the same spirit that binds us to our creator, bind us in ways that begin to transform who i think you are to who christ says we are.