Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)
TITLE: Ruthie's Prayer
By Leola Ogle
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Ruthie popped one eye open to glance at her teacher. Sensing that marrying the pastor, who already had a wife, wasn’t a good idea, she finished with, “But only after Mrs. Greer dies. Amen.”
Flustered, Mrs. Anderson patted Ruthie’s head, her gaze sweeping over her five-year-old students. Fortunately, everyone seemed oblivious to Ruthie’s unusual prayer.
Deciding it best not to comment about it to Ruthie, she hugged the little girl. Mrs. Anderson was a sweet, gentle woman. However, she was extremely busy, and although she diligently prepared each week, she gave little thought to her students except during class time.
Ruthie seemed such a happy, well-adjusted, outgoing child. Mrs. Anderson wasn’t aware that Ruthie had a troubled home life. Her father was an alcoholic who was absent from the home the majority of the time. When he was home, there was constant fighting. Abused as a child, he was a man driven by his own fears and inadequacies, and had no idea how to show love. He truly loved his wife and children and desperately longed to be a good husband and father. But his repeated failures in life drove him to spew anger upon them. It was a vicious cycle that he didn’t know how to break.
Mary, Ruthie’s mom, dearly loved her children, but was perpetually exhausted from working two jobs. This left little time for the nurturing that Ruthie yearned for. Ruthie had vague recollections of happier times when her daddy held her on his lap while he sang silly songs that made her laugh. She often closed her eyes, remembering those times, and wished to climb onto her daddy’s lap again. She remembered his smell, his gentleness as he stroked her hair, and the thump-thump of his heartbeat as she laid her head against his chest.
She missed that! It was this longing for the love and comfort of a daddy that sparked her prayer that morning. Pastor Greer reminded her of those vague memories of her daddy. Since Pastor Greer couldn’t be her daddy because she already had one, she thought the next best thing would be to marry him.
Pastor Greer was a compassionate man who loved his flock. Ruthie always felt the warmth of genuine love flow from him. As they left church that morning, he gently shook Mary’s hand. He then dropped to eye level with Ruthie and her brothers. Affectionately ruffling their hair, his eyes were full of love and concern! “You are blessed to have such fine children, Mary! God loves you and these little ones more than you’ll ever know. Don’t forget that!”
Basking in the love from Pastor Greer, Ruthie impulsively threw her arms around his neck. He rose to his feet, reminding Mary that they were praying for her and John. “Things will turn around someday, Mary.” Mary nodded, quickly gathering her children and heading to her car, embarrassed at her tears.
Shielding her eyes against the sun as she exited the church, Mrs. Anderson didn’t notice Ruthie’s forlorn face pressed against the car window as she waved in farewell. She had no idea how much Ruthie looked forward all week to her class, and how the stories of Jesus soothed her aching heart!
Pastor Greer walked over to the car before they left. Leaning into the window, he said again “Things will be better someday, Mary.”
He was right, things did get better. Within a year, John began attending church. With the help and encouragement of the pastor and the church family, he overcame the pain of his childhood. He became the loving husband and father he always longed to be.
Ruth didn’t marry Pastor Greer, having forgotten that she’d ever thought she would. Ruth did get married and Pastor Greer officiated at her wedding. When John came in to kiss his daughter before the ceremony began, Ruth laid her head against his chest, drank in his smell and heard the thump-thump of his heartbeat.
Later, with children of her own, Ruth taught that class, taking over for dear, faithful Mrs. Anderson. Teaching those children became a love and passion for her. Every Sunday she searched each face, looking for another little Ruthie. She would never forget the impact that kind words, genuine love, and Bible stories could have on a child.
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