My favorite Bible story has always been the story of Ruth. I never tire of reading about how she loved and cared for her mother-in-law, Naomi. When I married, my new mother-in-law was also named Ruth. As my second mother, my teacher, and my friend, she taught me to laugh, to plan ahead, and to look on the bright side of life. She added a wonderful new dimension to my life, and I loved her dearly. Because of her influence, I appreciated the story of the biblical Ruth more than before.
When my husband, Jesse, graduated from college, we set about creating a permanent home of our own. His teacher’s salary was adequate, but we had to be very careful to buy only the necessities. The years went by quickly, and soon, with three children, we needed a larger home and more furniture.
While shopping for furniture, I came upon a beautiful statue depicting Ruth sitting upon a pile of wheat sheaves. It was about 30 inches high, made of heavy plaster, and finished in a soft ivory color with gold leafing. I longed to take it home, but that was out of the question. We needed chairs to sit on, not statues to admire! Occasionally, I went back to the furniture store to see if the statue of Ruth was still there. For the next year and a half, it was. Then, just before Christmas, somebody bought it.
Imagine my joy on Christmas morning, when I received the statue as a gift from my dear husband. It became my special treasure, a silent friend who reminded me of the need to be faithful in all things. I placed my statue in the living room and did my best to convince my two-year-old son that it was not a toy to climb on.
One morning I heard a terrible crash and ran into the living room to find a very frightened two-year-old sitting amid the rubble of my statue of Ruth. Through my screams and tears I tried frantically to put the pieces of my statue back together. Suddenly I came to my senses as I heard the terrified sobs of my dear little son. I dropped the pieces and turned and gathered him in my arms. We cried together—he in fear, and I in shame and sorrow as I realized that I had let a plaster statue become for a moment more important to me than a child of God.
My two-year-old soon recovered from the ordeal, but I was never the same again. I put Ruth back together and kept her, even with the jagged scars and missing fragments. I never wanted to forget the lesson I had learned. Because of that experience, I saw my children in new light. I still taught them to take care of material things, but I tried to never again let such things become more important to me than my children.
Time passed, our family grew from three children to five, and we moved several times. Each time I packed my glued statue of Ruth with extra care. In each new home, it always had the place of honor in the living room. During our move to Portland, Oregon, some of our furniture was damaged. We called in an expert to make the repairs. He agreed also to mend the scars on my statue of Ruth for a small fee. When he was finished, she looked as good as new.
In a few years, we had expanded to a lively household of seven children, but my statue of Ruth sat undisturbed. Then, when our youngest son turned two, he discovered the fun of climbing onto my statue and pretending it was a horse. I kept him out of the living room and tried to teach him not to climb on the statue. But on a bright Tuesday morning I heard another crash. I ran to the living room and found Ruth in ruins and my frightened son crying amid the rubble. This was a re-run of the incident 13 years earlier, only this time instead of screaming there were hugs and tears as I reassured my son that he was loved.
My statue of Ruth was shattered beyond repair. I got a box, filled it with the broken pieces of plaster, and put it out with the trash. I was very sorry to see it go, but I knew that the lesson I had learned would stay with me forever. I returned to the house and rocked my son to sleep.