It was the same sermon we heard this preacher deliver many times in the five or so years we sat in rows of hastily assembled chairs as he expounded from the pulpit. The illustrations varied from week to week, but the theme seldom did.
“Okay. Got it. Can we move on now?” my friend mumbled over her coffee later. “I think the man has issues.”
The man had issues. But here’s the thing: we all have issues. If you read or follow the same person for any length of time you will probably sense a theme. If the theme is one that prompts you to say, “Good grief. What’s your problem?” you either move on or, if a sense of duty keeps you entering the same doors week after week, volunteer in the nursery, or spend sermon time counting the offering, or make coffee or something.
If the theme aligns with your own familiar issues, and if you hear God’s voice in another person’s words or actions, you listen, ponder, and engage. And ask more questions. I appreciate people who share what they have learned, but I know the really helpful concepts come out of their weakness, not their expertise, because the struggle is real.
If you read through the stories of people who have wrestled with God, you will notice he chooses people with issues. Answers floating around in the air only gain value when they attach themselves to questions.
The answer my questions have latched onto is grace. The twin enemies that have dogged my steps since childhood are fear and despair — fear of rejection and despair because I’ll never be good enough. They tell me I’m only as good as my last performance, which was, again, disappointing.
I have learned and I am learning. I have learned to apply the grace freely poured on me by the Giver of grace. I am still learning, because fear and despair still poke their ugly noses into my life when challenging circumstances show up. The Lord reminds me there is yet more empowering grace to experience.
For a long time, I mistook mercy for grace. I thought grace was a free get-out-of-jail card – unmerited favour. That’s mercy — and mercy is absolutely great. But grace goes beyond mercy to empower us to become the person God sees when he looks at us in Christ. He sees our true identity.
Sometimes I forget who he says I am. I see something else. I asked him to show me again.
I had a dream. A man who reminded me of Jesus was driving me around a neighbourhood similar to my childhood street. He stopped in front of a house and told me to knock on the door because someone in there was anxious to meet me. I did so reluctantly, because, well, I was afraid. The person who met me was excited. Apparently this was the home of my birth mother. Now I heard my own mother complain about my birth enough times to know I was not adopted in real life, but in the dream it seemed plausible.
A small older woman entered the room supported by several friends. Her name was Grace. Just like in the TV shows about reunions, she held me and wept with relief and affection. Then she and her friends brought me gifts. These were gifts she collected for me since birth. Since I have reached retirement age in real life, the number of wrapped presents was overwhelming.
I noticed a name tag on all of them. It said “Ashira.” I had never heard this name before. Grace said it was the name she gave me at birth. My “driver” stood in the doorway, smiling. I woke.
I searched the name Ashira. I found it on one of those baby name sites. It means “she who sings.” Then I realized the dream was telling me I was a child of grace and now a recipient of the gifts of grace. Nice.
A few minutes after I told my husband I felt curious about the dream, people arrived for the Bible study he leads, we read a passage in Galatians 4. This chapter is about freedom from performance-based religiosity. Paul includes an allegory (I love allegories.)
Abraham and Sarah were promised a child. When no child was conceived they tried to make it happen their own way using Sarah’s slave. That didn’t turn out so well for any of them. Eventually, miraculously, supernaturally, a child was born to Sarah. He was the child of promise, not slavery, not self-effort that thinks the end justifies the means.
This is the passage in The Passion Translation that stood out to me:
“These two women and their sons express an allegory and become symbols of two covenants. The first covenant was born on Mt. Sinai, birthing children into slavery—children born to Hagar. For “Hagar” represents the law given at Mt. Sinai in Arabia. The “Hagar” metaphor corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem of today who are currently in bondage.
In contrast, there is a heavenly Jerusalem above us, which is our true “mother.” She is the freewoman, birthing children into freedom!”
My dream! I met my “true mother.” She had gifts for me. Verse 28:
“Dear friends, just like Isaac, we’re now the true children who inherit the kingdom promises.”
I asked, “Lord, who am I?” He answered. I am a child of the free woman, the child of grace.
Verse 31: “It’s now so obvious! We’re not the children of the slave woman; we’re the supernatural sons of the freewoman—sons of grace!”
Oh, and Ashira? She who sings? I’ve learn that for me, the best way to defeat fear and despair is by singing about the goodness of God. He’s reminding me my weapon is a melody. My chosen pen name means Grace Song. I was a singer most of my life and now I use my “voice” here and other places to communicate this theme: God’s grace is sufficient. He loves people with issues, because His power is perfected in weakness.
Who do you think you are? Who does God know you are? Do the identities match? Ask him.
10 thoughts on “Grace’s Baby”
I truly enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for posting your thoughts. May the peace of the Lord be with you.
And with you, Mr. Mcalcagno. Thank you for taking the time to leave kind words.
This is so moving! Thank you for using your gifts!!!
Blessings on your day!
His grace is more than sufficient!
So glad it touched you! You are so precious and loved.
This is such a timely post to read. Thank you (or thank God for speaking through you and for drawing me to it).
I’ve recently been doing a complete re-read of all the psalms. Delicious. And Harsh. Comforting.
And unsettling. Every voice, every emotion, every situation….with multiple options for simultaneous readings as narrator, as 1st person, as observer, as God to me, as God to others that are in my path….until there is complete chaos that is somehow comforting in its apparent understanding of all the “issues” beyond words. Grace in the chaos? Certainly sufficient.
So many themes and yet it seems as if He was guiding me towards two quite specific ones this time. UNFAILING LOVE and SING. Sing. Sing the new song. How good to sing praises…. Sing. As you say, even when we can’t actually sing, find the voice. The voice that replicates to self, and to others, his unfailing love.
I am adopted, for real. I’m not a child of the slave woman; I’m the supernatural daughter of the freewoman—a daughter of grace!
Nothing new. New eyes perhaps. Newer heart perhaps. Certainly new and older….always daughter of the King/Queen of love and life.
Grace unending, unfailing love, New Life, right there in nuggets of gold amidst the tailing ponds of my issues.
I love that you are never shallow. You dive right in and go deep. And the tailing ponds of issues? Like a French immersion class, only this is a grace immersion class.
I see today, God hears my questions. I see He knows I’m often mystified by difficult circumstances. Sometimes it seems like my prayers for guidance go unheard by my Lord. I long, for a clear and direct Word from Him to lead me in His paths. I have learned that if I will not open the Word daily and read to hear, to find guidance, then I should realize that is my lack of will to know His presence and guidance daily. But as for self-discipline I’ve been a late bloomer.
But, I can truly say, there are times when I almost despair for lack of understanding, then, He has led me to read here and thus whispers so lovingly into my life. I have experienced these writings speak to me, to show me that He hears my constant requests for understanding and discernment. Thank you – your/His melody rings in my heart – I love the music!
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in his kindness, God doesn’t transform us with condemnation or shame or blame. He’s just excited to show us what is missing in our experience of Him. So much of learning to receive his grace is about unlearning the graceless performance-based grading system we have come to expect. Lean into the one who whispers so lovingly. That’s who he is! His goodness is so much gooder than we ever realized! lol
Your words speak to my heart once again, Charis! I, too, have “twin enemies” though I would call mine fear and condemnation. I’m asking God how He sees me. Perhaps His grace gifts to me will include a dream as He gave to you, or perhaps the answer will come another way.
Others’ comments have also spoken to me. Thank you, everyone!
Oh do ask, Lois! And if the answer to your question seems too good to believe, that’s Him. All the love and approval he has for Jesus is also aimed at you, because you are in Christ and Christ is in you.