When Ruth discovers that her son, John, has strayed from the righteous path she planned for him, she does everything in her power to guide him back to a good life. Ruth lies and manipulates for the sake of her son, but her actions have an unforseen consequence.
Ruth sang along to the car radio as she drove home. She’d gotten off work early and picked up pizza for her and her son, John, to share for dinner. He’d almost completed his first semester of Divinity studies, and she was proud to be the mother of a future pastor.
As Ruth approached her home, she spotted something that instantly changed her mood. Why was John walking through their neighborhood when he should be in class? And why was he holding hands with that awful Abbie girl?
Ruth ground her teeth at seeing her neat, handsome son beside Abbie in her stained and worn clothes. The pair reached the entrance to a small park and sat on a bench. John then reached into his large bag and removed… a canvas! Next, he removed a contraption that unfolded into an easel.
“Why is John painting Shabby Abbie? Why is he painting at all when he should be at school!”
A car behind Ruth honked. She snapped out of her daze and stepped on the gas. Part of her wanted to confront John immediately, but she refused to create a scene in public. Instead, she’d wait for him at home.
When Ruth got home, she went straight to John’s room. Her son had been deceiving her, and that would end today. She searched through the books on his desk but found nothing strange, so she opened the drawers.
Ruth removed a sketchbook and flipped it open. There were teacher comments beside sketches of bowls and plants. Next, she found a textbook on Art History, but the worst was still to come.
Ruth opened the anatomy book and gasped. It was full of naked people! She dropped it immediately.
“Lord, forgive my son for his sins,” Ruth prayed.
“He has been led astray by temptation, but I will guide him back to the righteous path.”
She began collecting the “offensive” books into a pile on John’s bed. They’d have to be burned. Ruth turned her attention to the narrow bookcase next. While she searched, the bedroom door opened.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“Saving you from yourself.” Ruth straightened and turned to face John. She prodded the anatomy book. “What is this supposed to be?”
John sighed. “I guess I’m busted. That’s an artist’s anatomy book, Mom. I left Divinity studies last month so that I could study art instead. I was afraid to tell—”
“You did what? I will not allow you to pursue a life of sin and debauchery! You are going back to Divinity studies, and you will become a pastor.”
“I won’t let you ruin my son’s life or tarnish his good reputation so just take the money and get out of his life!”
“No. I have a talent for art, and there’s no sin in that. You think you’re God and can order me around, but God says that the true sin is to ignore your talents.”
“This is because of that beggar, Shabby Abbie, isn’t it?” Ruth clutched her hands to her chest. “She’s a bad influence on you.”
“Don’t you dare insult Abbie!” John shouted. “She works her fingers to the bone to save for her mother’s medical treatment. If you truly think her clothes make her a bad person, then you need to attend Divinity studies far more than I do.”
“How dare you!” Ruth pointed at John. “You are on a dangerous path, but I will not let you succumb to earthly temptations. You won’t be seeing Abbie anymore, and I’m burning these books.”
“You are not!” John jumped to stand between Ruth and his books. “And you can’t force me to stop seeing Abbie.”
“You deserve better than a girl like that.” Ruth tried to reach past John, but he blocked her.
“You are so blinded by rage and hate that you’re not thinking straight.”
John quickly leaned over to grab a backpack and started packing his books. “I feel sorry for you, Mom. I see now that you’ve never loved in all your life.”
“I’m doing this because I love you,” Ruth said in shock.
“This isn’t love, Mom.” John shook his head. “I’m going to stay with Rob for a week. I hope you’ll think about your behavior while I’m gone.”
John left soon afterward. Although Ruth called him many times, he didn’t answer. When she tried calling the following day, his phone was off. Ruth was distraught. She prayed for guidance but didn’t know how to help her son see sense. The answer came later that afternoon.
Ruth answered a knock at the door and found Abbie standing there. Fiery indignation filled her heart, but then she realized Abbie might be the key to John’s salvation.
“Hello, Abbie.” Ruth gave the girl a big, fake smile. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for John.” Abbie had her arms tightly crossed and kept fidgeting. “I have something important to tell him, but his phone is off.”
“Come in, dear. You and I can have a chat. John isn’t here right now, but I can see you’re troubled, and I’m always willing to help those in need.”
“Thank you.” Abbie sniffed and started to cry. “I guess you should know too, Miss Jacobs. I’m pregnant with John’s child.”
Ruth nearly lost it. She stared at Abbie in horror as the true depth of John’s transgressions sank in. Ruth quickly composed herself, however, and guided Abbie to the couch.
“I’m shocked by this news,” Ruth said. “You see, John is engaged to our pastor’s daughter and has decided to return to Divinity studies, Abbie.”
“What?” Abbie gaped at Ruth. “He never told me that.”
“You poor child.” Ruth patted Abbie’s hand.
“I’m very sorry for you, but I know you wouldn’t want to ruin John’s future by creating a scandal.”
“I love him. I want him to be happy… I just can’t believe he never told me about any of this.”
“Oh, you know what men are like, dear. But don’t you worry about a thing because I’ll help you. It will be our secret. I know of a good Christian foster care near town where we can take the baby when it’s time. After all, you have enough worries on your young shoulders. How is your mother doing? I haven’t spoken to her in ages.”
Abbie frowned and bit her lip. “The doctor has recommended surgery, but it’s costly. I’ve been working double shifts at the diner to raise the money.”
“How much do you need? I’ll loan you the money.” Ruth rose to fetch her pocketbook.
“I really can’t accept that, Miss Jacobs.”
“You’re ruining your own life too, but you’re too blind to see it. I can’t live with this anymore. Goodbye, Mom.”
“Nonsense! Your mother, Jessica, and I were good friends once, and I’d be happy to see her in good health again.” Ruth wrote out a thirty thousand-dollar check and held it out to Abbie. “Will that be enough?”
“Yes, but…” Abbie shook her head.
Ruth put the check in Abbie’s hands and folded her fingers closed. “Take it, Abbie, for your mother’s sake and your own. Let me bless you to compensate for John’s poor treatment of you.”
Abbie started to object, but Ruth wouldn’t hear it. She rushed her out of the house and shut the door. Hopefully, with Abbie out of the picture, John would repent and return to the light.
Ruth executed the next part of her plan that evening. She called John’s friend, Rob, and asked him to tell John that she was very sick and needed him to return home. She lay in bed for the rest of the week and ensured John stayed at her side, where she could watch him.
That Sunday, Ruth insisted that John accompany her to church.
“Pastor Thomas invited me to speak to the congregation,” Ruth said.
“I don’t want to miss it, but I may need your help if I start feeling woozy.”
So John went to church with Ruth. When Pastor Thomas called on her to speak, Ruth delivered a powerful speech about how God expected children to obey their parents. Just as she finished, she noted Abbie was entering the church!
Ruth stepped down from the pulpit and rushed to meet Abbie at the rear of the church.
“Why are you here?” Ruth hissed.
“I came to see John. I’ve decided that he deserves to know the truth. I also want to return this.” Abbie held out the check Ruth gave her.
“But what about your mother?” Ruth grinned nervously. “You need that money, Abbie.”
Abbie shook her head. “My boss loaned me the money. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Ruth spread her arms to block Abbie. “You can’t enter a church in your state! Pregnant, unmarried women are unworthy to enter the house of God. I won’t let you ruin my son’s life or tarnish his good reputation, so just take the money and get out of his life!”
Ruth stiffened as she heard her own words echo back to her through the church. She glanced at the microphone pinned to her jacket and realized she’d made a colossal mistake.
Footsteps sounded behind her. Ruth turned to see John walking toward them with a fierce look on his face.
“You’re pregnant, Abbie?” John placed his hands on the girl’s shoulders. When she nodded, he turned to Ruth. “And you knew about it?”
“I did not want your life to be ruined by this loose girl with questionable morals.” Ruth reached to grab her son, but John pulled away.
“The only person ruining my life is you.”
John pointed at Ruth. “You’re ruining your own life too, but you’re too blind to see it. I can’t live with this anymore. Goodbye, Mom.”
“But where are you going to live with this, this beggar?” Ruth trailed after John as he led Abbie from the church.
“My teacher helped me sell a few of my best works,” John replied over his shoulder. “I can afford to rent a house for a while.”
John climbed into his car with Abbie, so Ruth got into her car to follow them. She was so focused on staying close to her son’s car that she skipped the intersection near the church. She never even saw the truck that crashed into her.
Ruth woke in the hospital a few days later. The first thing she saw was John. She started to smile until she noticed Abbie beside her son.
“I’m happy to see you awake, Mom.” John patted her hand. “The doctors say you’ll be okay after the surgery they performed. I want you to know I’ve taken all my things from your house. Abbie and I are moving into our new home.”
John removed an ivory-colored envelope and placed it on the bedside table. “This is an invitation to our wedding. We’d love to see you there, but it’s your decision.”
John and Abbie rose to leave, but Ruth reached for her son’s hand.
“Please, don’t leave me alone.” Ruth started to cry.
John paused in the doorway. “You aren’t alone. Pastor Thomas is here to see you.”
Ruth’s tears flowed freely as Pastor Thomas sat beside her. He held her hand and let her cry for a while before he spoke. Ruth was shocked to hear him say that she’d lost her way.
“Despite your good intentions, you’ve forgotten that God gave His children free will. This means that you should respect your son’s independence and let John make his own choices.”
“But he’s made a mess of his life, Pastor.”
Pastor Thomas shook his head.
“We don’t pass judgment, Ruth. Religion isn’t about punishing those who break the rules. The path to God is found through love, and love is what God wants us to show to all people on this earth.”
“You were pregnant when you came to me,” Pastor Thomas continued. “You didn’t know who the father was, but I accepted you into my home and gave you the love and shelter you needed to stand on your own two feet. I repeat, religious rules only make sense if you have love in your heart.”
Ruth spent the remainder of her stay in the hospital thinking about what Pastor Thomas had said. He visited her again many times. They read the Bible together and prayed together. By the time Ruth was released, she’d realized how wrong she’d been.
Ruth returned to an empty house and an invitation to attend John’s art exhibition. She immediately went upstairs and rummaged in her closet until she located an old box.
John was shocked to see Ruth at the exhibition. He was even more shocked when she gave him a gift: an album of all his childhood drawings.
“You kept these all this time?” he asked.
“Of course.” Ruth wiped away a tear. “I knew my son would grow up to be a great person.”
A month later, Ruth attended John and Abbie’s wedding. She apologized to Abbie for how she behaved and presented the couple with a sheet of paper.
“This is the deed for a house,” Abbie said.
Ruth nodded. “It’s yours. You’ll need to save your money for the baby. I’m giving you this home, so you no longer have to pay rent. I also made this.”
Abbie took the gift bag Ruth offered her. Inside was a blue-knitted outfit for a newborn.
“I remembered how much I enjoyed knitting when I was younger and decided to make this gift for my future grandson.” Ruth placed her hands over Abbie’s.
“I hope I can prove to you how deeply I regret the way I treated you, and that one day you’ll forgive me.”
Abbie smiled and hugged Ruth.
What can we learn from this story?
Religious rules make no sense without love. Ruth became so caught up in doctrines and dogma that she forgot the essential parts of religion are love, kindness, and forgiveness.
Don’t judge others based on their wealth. Although Abbie worked hard and had a good heart, Ruth couldn’t look past her shabby clothes and mistreated her.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.