I’ve often wondered about being different. That’s why I am intrigued by the biblical character called, Ruth. A Moabitess who married a Jew, when her husband died, she moved to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, leaving culture, family and gods behind. The last item is telling.
Those who lived in Canaan were fascinated by gods – Israelites and foreigners alike. The Israelites in particular, were willing to live without kings, but could not live without gods (Judges 17). Whenever their earthly champions were absent or dead, they would quickly turn to idols and gods. (Exodus 32; Judges 8:33). Such was their dependence on deities.
At first, I thought Ruth had been influenced by her husband’s culture and religion, which was why she was willing to accompany his mother. Then I remembered that her companion, Orpah, who had been married to another son of Naomi, turned back on the journey to Israel. I then thought maybe Naomi had swayed Ruth with kindness, until I read that Ruth was the one who had been kind to Naomi. Naomi testifies to it (Ruth 1:8).
So, where did Ruth’s loyalty and affinity for God come from? Rachel, another biblical character, was in a relationship with Jacob an Israelite, for at least 14 years. Yet, she still clung to her family’s gods (Genesis 31).
Ruth’s difference may point to why some Nigerians, despite living in a deeply cultural and religious society, are somehow different from the norm. Despite societal pressure, they balk at harmful traditions to embrace the new.
The role of education
Exposure and education may help explain it in part. The rise of mobile Internet has led to increased citizen advocacy. People are aware of better things happening in the world and now have a platform to make their voices heard.
Education introduces people to new ideas and more importantly, to the choices that are available to them. If one is unaware of alternatives, one cannot demand for something better. It also discipline minds and help people to make reasoned and logical choices.
Let me illustrate the point
A woman born and bred in a brothel initially knows no other life. One day, she is given the opportunity to pursue an education and she leaves the brothel to explore new worlds. She realises there are other options besides prostitution. She can be a single & fulfilled corporate executive, a “runs girl”, a second wife, and so much more. Education gives her options. But it doesn’t end there. Because her mind has been disciplined, she can weigh the options and make a reasoned choice based on the pros and cons.
So, back to Ruth. Why was she different from Orpah? To bring it closer to home, why am I different too? Why do I not fit the typical mold of a Nigerian woman?
I was born in Nigeria into an average middle class family. Then I attended a public university and had my professional career here. Furthermore, I was exposed to the usual books, music and movies. Nothing about my childhood was particularly spectacular. So why am I not a typical Nigerian? What happened to me? What shaped my mind? And why did I accept the Christian God, even though I was free to choose my own gods? My parents never forced me to be a Christian.
Being different is about choice
I think being different ultimately boils down to choice. Presented with options, humans gravitate towards the one that resonates with them. Perhaps due to personality, belief, expediency or need. In my case, I think my sense of self tends towards creativity, liberty and curiosity. I love to learn and so, tradition and culture hold little appeal. And so, I have carved out my own path in life.
PS: For more about being different, check this out.As a Christian, are you willing to turn your back on harmful tradition to embrace something different? Click To Tweet