This is a story submitted by Katherine Peters.
Ruth and I were good friends. We had a lot in common. We were single parents together. We went to the same church together and mostly we just hung out together with our boys.
I loved Ruth’s vibrant smile, her infectious laugh, and she gave the best hugs. We both dated and later married men who were alcoholics. We supported one another through the good times and the bad times. She loved life and the people in her life.
We didn’t have everything in common. Previously, Ruth had worked the streets in order to support her past drug habit. CFS had stepped in and taken her 5 oldest kids, all boys. When she described her addiction, she told me heroin was the only drug that calls to you in your sleep. She lived with this ongoing struggle to stay clean and keep her youngest son.
Ruth spent the first 5 years of her life at Roseau River Indian Reserve. I don’t know what kind of pain she endured before she went into foster care. But I know she battled every day to rise above her pain and do better.
At some point the pain became too great. She went back to numbing the pain in the old familiar way. Ruth was back on the street to support her habit. But she never stopped trying to rise above it.
A few years later, Ruth and her son came to spend some time with me. She wanted to make a new start. We looked at apartments together. I gave her $1,000 to get her on her feet again. But she never got that apartment. The temptation was too great. She spent my cash on a short-term solution to numb the pain.
Our bond of friendship turned into chains of unforgiveness. She had hurt me. How could she betray me like that? I trusted her! I believed in her! My heart was broken and I was angry.
In 2012, Ruth was found dead on Main street. All her tries had been used up and her battles were over. She finally had peace.
All her sons were all at the funeral. The intertwining of grief, anger and compassion hung heavily in the room as the pastor poured out his heart of love for this lady who had never given up.
There was an opportunity to give a donation for the Vineyard Memorial Path behind the church; a memorial garden to remember the lives of native women who had been taken too soon.
As I took out my cheque book, I wondered how much I would give. A familiar voice whispered, “$1,000.00 is the amount.” As I filled in the cheque, my heart began to change. The pastor’s words echoed in my mind. “We don’t know the pain she experienced in her life. How can we judge? All her life, she struggled to do the right thing.”
I signed the cheque and in the memo I wrote, “Paid in full.” Her debt was paid, and the chains fell off me! We were no longer bound by unforgiveness. Not only had Ruth been set free from the war she waged, my heart had been set free from the chains that had weighed me down.
How does that work you ask? You paid out money twice and you call it even?
This is how it works in the kingdom. We owe a huge debt. We can’t possibly pay it back. In all our trying and struggling to do the right thing, it will never cover what we owe. Then Jesus came. He paid for our sins when he died on the cross. He wrote the cheque and forgave us as he did so. He doesn’t have feelings of unforgiveness towards us. Only love.
One day I will be reunited with my friend Ruth. I can’t wait to see her, knowing there are no bad feelings between us.
Jesus is waiting for each one of us. He can’t wait to see us. He doesn’t hold any bad feelings towards us. Only love.
~ Katherine Peters
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