I had a hap on the train today. No, not a nap, but a hap.
‘Hap’ – it’s an old English word, coming from the same root word as ‘happen’. I usually like a modern translation of the Bible, but was recently taken with the term ‘hap’ as used in the King James version of the story of Ruth. (We studied Ruth at Bible Study Fellowship last week, which is why it is fresh on my mind.)
As for Ruth, the KJV says that “… her hap was to light upon a part of the field belonging unto Boaz….” (Ruth 2:3 NIV). When I read more about the original language, I learned that there are two Hebrew words in that passage which could be translated as ‘It just so happened’. Doubling up these words emphasises the providential nature of Ruth’s hap. In fact, her hap would change the course of her life and of history, for the man in whose field the foreigner scavenged grain would become her kinsman-redeemer, husband and, along with her, the ancestor of kings and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A modern hap
I love Ruth’s story. My own hap today was a little bit special too. I am writing up this story to remind myself again of the hand of our providential God in my own life and to encourage you to look out for it in your life too.
Today’s hap involved a random encounter on the train with someone I know only slightly. Let’s call her ‘Drolma’ for anonymity’s sake.
Drolma is Tibetan. There are not many Tibetans in Melbourne, and those that are here are scattered around the city. It’s not like Sydney where most live in the one area.
I had decided to take the train to a meeting today rather than drive because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with a lot happening this week. You can double your time on the train with reading or doing digital things on your phone, plus get steps on your FitBit besides. Which is why I had left home in plenty of time for the 8.40am train, taking with me a big fat book that I am slowly slowly plowing through. I got there ten minutes early but my train was a little late, then delayed until further notice, then finally, it was cancelled.
Grump, grump, grump went the middle-aged lady with the big book. Yes, that was me. I had things to do and places to go and people to see. This wasn’t the start to the day that I had planned.
I know in my head that my plans aren’t actually that important. Not in the big scheme of things, they’re not. I’ve written at length about this before. But I still tense my shoulders and furrow my brow when my plans are frustrated.
It’s nothing like the ancient tale of woe that Ruth lived day in and day out in the lead-up to her hap. Perspective is hard to maintain some days.
A train finally came, half an hour after I had arrived at the station. I could have driven to my destination in that time and here I was, still back at the starting point. Eight carriages, each with three doors. I picked one at random.
Two stations later was where I experienced the hap. Drolma just happened to get on the same train … on the same carriage … entering through the same door near which I sat. “Long time, no see,” she commented.
What made this a hap?
Part of my stress for the day was that I had arranged to start back with Tibetan lessons this afternoon after a lengthy hiatus. I felt unprepared. I have been reviewing, reviewing and reviewing some more, but there is so much to remember. I forget so quickly.
“Please, Lord,” I had been praying this week, “If learning this language is a good use of time and money, could you affirm that? And if not, would you show me that too?”
I don’t think I’m reading too much into it when I say that I sensed God’s hand in the way that Drolma got on ‘my’ train this morning. Something similar happened three years ago too, actually, when I first started Tibetan lessons and ran into her husband at a petrol station right after praying for wisdom about spending time and money on learning this language.
In the case of the ancient Moabiteness, Ruth, the Bible says that “… her hap was to light upon a part of the field belonging unto Boaz….” (Ruth 2:3 NIV).
In the case of this modern Australian, my hap was to light upon a particular woman in a particular section of a particular carriage of a particular train … a woman whose people God has put on my heart. I am taking this ‘hap’ as affirmation that I’m spending my time wisely.
Ruth’s story had a ‘happily ever after’ ending. I wonder where mine will end?
Watch this space.