Last night I dreamed I was at one of our loud and happy Miller family gatherings. As the end of our weekend crept up, my cousins decided to put together a scrapbook for my grandparents. (My grandparents are long gone, but this was the dream.)
We used a regular ruled notebook, and filled it with clever writings and drawings. At least everyone else did. When my turn came, I simply could not get it right.
I had the best of intentions, and creative ideas of what to do with my page. But as I started writing, I misspelled several words. (Not being able to spell was traumatic!)
Bother! I tore out the page and started over. This time I misjudged how much space my words would take up on the page.
Bother again! Ripping out the page, I concentrated hard on what I was doing. But a big glob of peanut butter smeared over my carefully written words.
Gah! That page was wadded up and tossed too. I started feeling desperate, because I could not get it right! I frantically wrote and discarded, wrote and discarded, wrote and discarded. Surrounded by a flurry of torn-out pages, I suddenly realized I was on the last one in the book.
Shame washed over me. My aunt came over to see how I was doing, and I told her in a small voice that the book had no pages left.
I woke up from the dream, remembering a passage that my Advent group studied a few weeks ago:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1: 18-21 (emphasis mine)
He will save His people from their sins. I thought of that growing heap of trash in my dream, and my utter inability to make the situation better. I thought about the difference between forgiving for sins and saving from sins.
Forgiveness is a precious gift; one we cannot take lightly. But forgiveness is not the same as saving. Forgiveness does not actually change who I am. Being saved from my sins–given the ability to walk into a new life–is what changes me.
The pressures of this past year have showed me that I am not as good as I thought I was. It’s been a hard year–parenting children deeply affected by trauma, taking up nursing again and working part-time, helping struggling children through new life-stages, and supporting people facing the ravages of poverty. I’ve felt weariness, loneliness, and depression in ways I never did before.
Many times I come to the end of the day feeling like I’ve done badly. I’m exhausted, yes, but that’s no excuse for being short with my children or my husband. It is no excuse for being cynical about people and their needs.
But I cannot change myself. Only God can change me. I know from repeated experience that simply trying to do better never works very long.
The dream reminded me of why Jesus came, and why I need Him so much. As much as I try, I can’t get my act together. The messed-up pages pile beside me, walling me with shame. But I have hope, because Jesus came not only to forgive, but also to save.
How does salvation affect your daily life?