The idea for this story also came to my mother as she read Luke 18.
Ruth set the hairbrush back on the dresser and turned to look in the full-length mirror that hung on the closet door. She smiled slightly, thinking how strange it seemed to know she didn’t have to drive back to campus after the service this morning. She gave an absentminded assessment to her yellow short-sleeved dress, not really seeing the tiny daisy’s that floated across the material.
Her mind was occupied with the devotional that she had finished reading earlier.
The knock on her door caught her attention and she turned to look at her mother as the older woman stepped into the room and smiled.
“Oh, honey, you look wonderful.”
Ruth smiled and lifted the yellow ribbon to tie it around her hair.
“Mrs. Tillman just called.” She paused, causing Ruth to raise her brows in question. Joyce Reynolds grimaced and rolled her eyes. “They want to give you a plaque or some such thing for your graduation.”
“Oh, Mom, no. Didn’t you try to talk her out of it?”
“Yes, dear, I did. But you know Betty when she sets her mind on something.”
Ruth swallowed down the unease that had suddenly begun to dance inside at the announcement, and frowned.
“Why can’t they just leave it alone? It’s not like I had any part in how the Lord made me.” She slipped the ribbon around her long hair and tied it into a large bow, then rested her hands on her slim hips. “I mean, He could have made me homelier than a hedge-fence and dumber than a box of rocks.”
Joyce chuckled at the mental image her daughter had created and moved to rest her hands on those slim shoulders.
“I know honey, but they are proud of your accomplishments. It’s not every day that one of our own graduates at the top of her class with a perfect grade-point average from an Ivy League school.” She smiled at her daughter’s reflection in the mirror, amazed once again that she had any part in the creation of this gorgeous creature.
“Mom, you know the parable about the Pharisee and the Publican?” She watched her mother nod and glance at the open Bible where it rested on the desk in front of the window. “I don’t want to be a Pharisee. I don’t want to be so puffed up with pride and vanity that God is unhappy with me. I want my heart to be like the publican, humble and seeking God’s forgiveness, praising Him for the blessings He has given me.”
Joyce looked at her daughter with that pride that a mother is entitled to feel in her daughter and blinked back the tears of love.
“And I think you just made God smile.”
“But, Mom, it gets really hard not to be proud and puffed up when everyone continues to tell you how great you are.” She sighed and her frown deepened. “I just wish everyone would just leave it alone.”
Ruth looked at her mother and grinned as her dad’s voice rose from the floor below. When the hand on her shoulder squeezed slightly in encouragement, Ruth returned the pressure then watched as her mother moved across to the door.
Ruth laughed as her mother moved out into the hall.
“David, must you yell like that?”
“It’s 9:30. I didn’t want to be late.”
Ruth glanced in the mirror one more time as she listened to her mother’s voice fade down the stairs, before turning to gather up her Bible and purse.
As she made her way down the stairs, she took in the opulence of the house that she had grown up in, once again thanking God for blessing her family so bountifully.
She made her way through the house to the garage and her brand new Corvette Stingray – a graduation gift from her parents. She moved her eyes over it and felt guilt build at the fact that she had so much while others had so little.
As she drove down the street toward church, her mind was once again drawn to the parable that had been a part of her study that morning. “Father please help me to always be the woman You would have me be.”
She drove into the church parking lot, glancing at the man that stood on the sidewalk. She pulled into an empty space and slid the sunglasses from her nose to set them on the dashboard.
Her eyes were drawn to the man that still stood on the sidewalk, and she couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing.
He was stooped over, shoulders and back bent with age and hard work. His white hair looked as if he had run quick fingers through it without the aid of a comb. His black suit looked to be almost as old as he was and looked as threadbare as the hat he held in his hands. He was staring at the front of the church, as if unsure what to do next.
Ruth slid from the seat and gathered up her things before turning to walk toward the building. The man was still standing there as she neared the door. She stopped, watching the other worshippers glancing at him as they made their way inside. She saw the whispers and stares, and suddenly thought of the Pharisee in the parable.
Instead of going inside, Ruth turned and walked to the man that was now watching her with a concerned look in his gray eyes. She smiled at him and looked at the Bible he held clutched with his hat.
“Can I help you?”
The man’s wrinkled cheeks turned pink and he glanced down at his aged clothing. He grimaced and then looked at her impeccable appearance.
“Oh, miss, I just was wondering if I would be worthy to come in and worship my Lord here in this beautiful building.” He gave a deprecating laugh and shook his head. “I am not exactly up to your standards.”
Ruth impulsively lay her hand on his arm.
“Sir, what’s your name?”
“Well, Joshua, if you want to come in and worship our Lord, I would be proud to have you sit with me, if you wouldn’t mind.”
Joshua’s eyes flooded with tears of gratitude and he nodded. Ruth tucked her hand into his elbow and they proceeded into the building. She stopped at the back of the sanctuary and leaned over to talk quietly with her escort.
“See the gentleman in the dark blue suit on the right, three rows from the front, sitting with the woman in the red blouse?” Joshua looked, then nodded. “Those are my parents. Will sitting there be okay with you?”
Joshua nodded again and Ruth smiled. They walked toward the front, both conscious of the hushed voices and looks. They were almost to the pew when David turned, then stood in surprise.
“Daddy, this is Joshua. I asked him to come and sit with me.”
David smiled and reached out a hand to the newcomer then introduced him to Joyce. Once they had made room for Joshua and got settled for the service, Ruth felt peace fill her heart; felt the love of God filling her with His approval.
When the service was over, Ruth walked with Joshua out to the walk where they had met.
“Thank you miss. I truly appreciate your kindness this morning.”
“Joshua, I am so glad you came, and if you would care to come back, we will always make room for you to sit with us.”
“Thank you miss, but I’m just passing through.” He gripped her hands with a strength that belied his age and smiled kindly at her. He started to turn away, then stopped. “Do you know why your parents named you Ruth?” When Ruth shook her head, Joshua explained, “They named you Ruth after the Moabitess that gave her life so unselfishly for her mother-in-law.” He patted her hands and turned away. “God bless you richly, Ruth.”
“And you, Joshua.” She turned to go to her car, then realization hit her. “Joshua, how did you know why they …?” She turned, but the old man was nowhere in sight. She frowned, then laughed “I never even told You my name.”
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“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2012