Ruby signed her name to the bottom of the letter with a flourish, dropped her pen on the desk, and flexed her stiff hand. What next? She reached across the desk and drew her open planner toward her. Oh yeah. I still have to fertilize the flowers.
She looked out the window where the sun was streaming down on the yard. Heat waves danced over the grass. It’s going to be miserable out there in the heat.
Ruby sighed and headed outside to the toolshed to get the mixture she was to use for fertilizing. Her mom mixed up her own fertilizer from a lot of natural ingredients, and it turned into a brown, lumpy substance that Jasper had called “grow goop.” The name had stuck like grow goop to loose dirt around freshly planted flowers.
She quickly found the bucket of fertilizer, but finding a pair of gloves was not such an easy matter. Ruby dug through a bin, looked around the shelves, and finally stuck her head out of the shed. “Amber,” she called loudly in the direction of her sister who was reading under a tree.
Amber looked up. “What?”
“Didn’t you use some gardening gloves yesterday? Where did you put them?”
“Aren’t they on the planting table?”
Ruby ducked back into the shed and looked the table over again, surveying the various size pots and a half-empty bag of potting soil.
“Nope. Not here.”
Amber got to her feet. “Okay, I’ll find them.”
Ruby stepped out into the yard to wait for her sister. The yard was none too cool, but inside the shed where the sun rays were magnified by reflecting off the walls, and the breeze could not reach, it was suffocating.
Amber walked slowly across the yard, her eyes on the sky. She stopped, and Ruby could hear her speaking in a dreamy voice. “Wonder which one will win. That one looks like it might be catching up.”
Ruby frowned and looked at the sky. Other than a few small clouds and the blistering sun, all she could see was a couple of jets with their streams puffing behind them.
“I think it’s gaining. No – maybe not.” Amber was riveted, her eyes darting back and forth between the two jets.
“Come on, Amber.” Ruby wiped a drop of sweat that rolled down her cheek.
Amber slowly started toward the shed again, her eyes still on the sky and the race between the two jets. “I wish it could catch up. But, wait, if it does, they look like they might crash. They’re both heading toward the same spot near that cloud.” Amber’s steps were slowing.
“Fine then. You just stay here and watch the airplanes all day if you want. It’s too hot to wait, and I’m going without the gloves.” Ruby strode into the shed, grabbed the bucket of grow goop, and headed for the flower bed. Amber’s eyes had descended from the sky and looked wonderingly at her sister. Ruby just kept walking.
Beside the first plant, she pulled off the bucket lid and looked with distaste at the brown goop. How was she going to spread it without any gloves? She certainly wasn’t going to grab a handful of it!
Spotting a small stick on the ground at her feet, she picked it up and dipped out a little goop on the tip of the stick. She couldn’t get much out at a time, but she continued dipping and spreading the brown mixture around the plants. To her chagrin, her hand kept brushing the sides of the bucket. She now had some of the brown goop on her hand. She also had a strong feeling of guilt in her heart.
God, I’m so sorry that I got impatient with Amber and spoke unkindly to her. Please forgive me. Thank You that You are merciful and always forgive. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Ruby was still spreading goop when she heard a voice behind her. “Here are the gloves.”
She turned and took the gloves from her sister. “I’m sorry, Amber,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have gotten upset.”
“I forgive you.” Amber smiled. “I should have come faster. The jet never did catch up anyway.”
Both girls chuckled a little, releasing some of the tension.
Amber returned to her book, and Ruby wiped her hands on the grass to get them a little cleaner before putting on the gloves. It was much easier to apply the mixture now that she could grab handfuls of it to spread. She moved quickly from one plant to the next.
Though she had made things right with her sister, Ruby still felt uneasy; there was an unsettled feeling around her heart. Why did I mess up – again? I never can seem to do things right. Now I’ve ruined today. I made Amber feel bad, and I just made a mess of things for myself too. I feel as dirty on the inside as this goop looks in the bucket.
“Lunchtime!” Mrs. Randall’s voice sailed across the yard to Ruby.
“Coming!” Ruby called back. She slipped off the gloves and laid them on the border of the flower bed.
Once inside, Ruby headed straight to the bathroom. She rubbed the pink bar of soap across her hands to form a thick lather before laying the soap back in the wooden dish. After scrubbing her hands for a minute and rinsing them thoroughly, she wiped them on the hand towel.
Ugh. I know my hands are clean since I washed them good, but they still seem too dirty to eat with after handling that goop. She was tempted to wash them a second time but knew that wouldn’t make a difference. Normally, she would have had time to let the feeling wear off and it wouldn’t bother her, but this time she went straight to the lunch table. Her hands were sparkling clean, but her mind didn’t believe it.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Ruby found herself avoiding talking to Amber at the table. She still felt guilty for the way she had hurt her sister, even though Amber seemed her usual happy self. It was also uncomfortable holding a sandwich with hands her mind insisted were still dirty.
After lunch, Ruby headed back out to finish fertilizing the flowers. As her hands worked, her mind was also busy. My hands didn’t feel clean after washing them thoroughly, even though they were as clean as soap and water can make them. It’s kind of like how I felt about Amber. I asked God to forgive me, so He did! Right then, I was clean, whether I felt like it or not. My hands were clean, and my heart was too. I just have to believe it and not rely on my feelings.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Ruby patted around the last bush, stood, and slipped off the gloves. She quickly put away her tools and washed her hands.
Last night, I helped Mom debone that chicken. My hands were so greasy that when I washed them, they still weren’t clean. That time, it wasn’t all in my mind.
She headed into the kitchen and filled a glass with water, dropping ice cubes into the water. They landed with gentle splashes and tinkled against the side of the glass.
That greasiness is like when we ask God to forgive us, but we still hold onto our sin. We aren’t really repentant, we just want to feel better.
Ruby drank half the glass of water and then sat down at the piano. She began to play and sing, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
When the song ended, she continued running her hands over the keys, playing chords and trills. Jesus’ blood washes us clean! Every time we repent! I don’t have to wait a certain length of time to be right with Him or try to punish myself by staying miserable. Jesus was already punished for me. God’s forgiveness is instantaneous. He forgives, and He forgets. I’m justified, or as Dad likes to put it, “Just as if I’d never sinned.” I wonder if I would be less likely to sin in the future if my mind was on God’s forgiveness and victory instead of my past wrongs.
Ruby played a few more chords and led back into the chorus again. “Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
Do you enjoy encouraging stories that relate to your life? Sign up to be notified about a new story almost every month!
Had you ever thought about God’s forgiveness in this way? Do you have any thoughts to add about His amazing, instant, and complete forgiveness?