It was a dream.

I was with a group of people and we were in this particular place because we shared a common situation. We were all being paid an amount of money, yet it was unclear as to what we did to earn it. In fact, as I heard a couple of the people talk, it became clear that they were a bit uncomfortable accepting the money. Of course, they didn’t want to NOT get it, but they were incredulous that they were being paid to ‘do nothing’.

In the dream I was an observer and didn’t enter into the conversation but I felt a little anxious because of the ambivalence my ‘co-workers’ felt toward the situation…some a bit haughty because they were ‘getting something for nothing’; another man just couldn’t understand the situation and felt guilty for taking money he felt he hadn’t earned.

I woke up.

I felt very disturbed when I woke and started remembering the dream. In dreamwork it’s important to take note of your feelings toward the situation and I was puzzled by my intense reaction. I thought about various things that had been happening the day before as well as the book I’d read from just before going to bed. I tested each idea against my dream to sense when the ‘aha’ moment would occur which would signal I had landed on the source of the dream.

The day before I had listened to pieces of a sermon given by a young Adventist pastor. I realized my thoughts and musings following that talk, as well as things that had been going around in my head for months coalesced into a contemporary dream re-telling a familiar parable of Jesus.

We are all the recipients of a grace we have not earned. We have been ‘paid’ and rewarded for something we did not contribute toward. Some Christians have a very difficult time with this, feeling guilty for not subsidizing their reward or perhaps even feeling haughty – like they’ve gotten away with something because Someone wasn’t paying attention.

Grace is a dicey subject. We may have a definition in our mind but I’m not sure we’re clear about what ‘grace’ means in a practical rubber-meets-the-road way. Like the people in my dream, there are a variety of reactions to the idea of grace. My own reaction in the dream was a sense of unworthiness – another common reaction to receiving grace.

Perhaps it is as simple and as complex as receiving something of value for which we have done nothing. It can leave us confused, frustrated, disturbed. It can make us feel we need to work a little harder, be a little better, do a little more.

As I had become a part of the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) in my dream, I realized in a practical way how it might feel to be the recipient of unearned grace. For a life-long Christian, that’s kind of uncomfortable! I can more easily imagine myself being the ‘early’ worker who complains about those who get the same wage for only an hour of work.

Jesus’ words have new meaning, new hope, new comfort for the places where I am definitely a ‘late worker’ – areas of my character still in progress…really, my entire existence that is still in progress: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (vs. 15)

Realizing I am the recipient of unmerited favor, unearned grace and wanton mercy completely undoes me.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…

Ann Halim, editor, eWeekend newsletter from the College View Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Republished with permission.