Tuesday, May 31, 2011
See ya later, Ruth! We will miss you until we meet again.
It was 1998 and this Women's Retreat was to be full of firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever left my children over night. It was the first time I had ever gone to a "Women's Retreat". It was the first time I found I couldn't keep from crying in public. And it was the first time I realized I could smile... A LOT.
Some history- 1998 was the year I became a Christian- accepting Jesus Christ as the only One who could save me from my sin. Before that, I had always been the tough girl who did her own thing and didn't give a rip what you thought of it. I had had two children outside of marriage, I liked to party and fight and thought that "religion" was something people did because they didn't know what life was REALLY like. Yeah- did God ever blow my socks off that year.
This was also the first time I met Ruth F. She was an older lady at church who was in a ladies discipleship program I had joined and my church planned a retreat for all of us to learn about healthy boundaries, refresh our spirits, and worship God together. I went to this retreat with so much apprehension. I didn't fit in with ANYONE- I didn't talk like these "Christians". I didn't dress like these women, and I certainly didn't think I thought like these people. But I felt so strongly that I should go.
Needless to say, God knew why I needed to be there. It truly was a turning point in my life and the beginning of a lifelong healing. I received more hugs, acceptance and love in that one weekend than I ever had before. These women were strangers to me- yet they were sisters. They were completely bizarre to me- yet they were such a comfort. I think I cried liters that weekend as God changed me completely, and I have never looked back. I smile all the time now, probably too much. I love life and people and instead of being the tough girl that "didn't cry no matter what", I cry like a baby over the most ridiculous things.
And I can still remember distinctly the moment all those changes happened during this retreat.
We were sitting at the round lunch table, probably about 8 ladies and as I looked around at the gray heads surrounding me, I felt so awkward. Friday night had been interesting and uncomfortable, but I was glad I came. I listened to these ladies talk about their families, children, life and love and I started to feel so stupid. Stupid because I didn't understand why they did the things they did. Stupid because smiling and love didn't come naturally to me like it seemed to for them. Stupid because I couldn't tell Bible stories or remember verses like they could. And I just started crying. Right there at the table like a big goomba. Not moaning and groaning, just tears streaming down my face. And that's the moment Ruth stepped into my life and I will never forget it. The whole table was being all lovey dovey to me and trying to comfort me as I blubbered out why I was so upset. "I just feel so behind- I'm 22 years old and I have wasted my whole life. I don't know how I will ever catch up to the faith and understanding you guys have of Jesus. It makes me feel so sad and lost."
Quiet Ruth looked me in the eye in her matter of fact way and said, "Well, you know, I was 27 before I became a Christian. So you are way ahead of me, dear." Bahahahaha! Talk about shutting things down! In her simple, honest sentence- she completely cured me of my self pity and gave me hope. We all started laughing and the ice was broken forever. Ruth opened the door to something I hadn't really considered. My life was just beginning and God had a good plan and purpose. She didn't laugh at me for being so dramatic, or tease me for my silly youth. She just said matter of factly, that God wasn't nearly through with me yet and I needed to gain some perspective.
Over the years we would make small talk and I would give her a big hug every time I saw her. She probably had no idea why this weird little Asian girl always stared at her and wanted to hug her, but it didn't matter. She let me anyway. After we moved back from AZ, I found that Ruth had gotten old. She never seemed old to me- when we were volunteering at New Heights together, or she was driving around all the old ladies who didn't have licenses anymore- she was always so busy. But now, she had finally slowed down. I still looked at her with awe, and loved to see her sitting in church next to her daughter- just staring at the back of her head and smiling in remembrance.
Ruth met Jesus face to face yesterday, May 30th, 2011. And I so wish I could have seen her quiet sweet smile when she looked at Him ...right in the eye, for the first time. I am so GLAD God let me know this woman, and I am so glad that I shared this memory with her daughter a couple years ago so she could explain it to Ruth before it was too late.
It makes me sad to know I won't ever see her little body with a big presence here on earth again...but I am so happy for her. No more pain, no more struggle...nothing but walking and talking with Her Father. The one who saved her at 27 and grew her and taught her and loved her every day of her life. Oh, Ruth- I love you, sister. I still hope someday to catch up to your faithfulness to Jesus...I want to grow up and be just like you. Thank you for always cutting to the chase and for seeing things so clearly. Can't wait to have lunch with you again soon... <3
"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:3-5