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In his book The Case for Grace, pastor and author Lee Strobel describes a dream he had as a child after having a significant argument with his father. Strobel does what most of us would do at that age: resolve to work harder, perform better, and get into his father’s good “graces.” The dream that followed demonstrates, even at an early age, that grace would inevitably seep into Strobel’s life, and that the performance treadmill he had learned as a child would never get him where we wanted to be:

One evening when I was about twelve, my father and I clashed over something. I walked away feeling shame and guilt, and I went to bed vowing to try to behave better, to be more obedient, to somehow make myself more acceptable to my dad. I can’t recall the details of what caused our conflict that evening, but what happened next is still vivid in my mind fifty years later.

I dreamed I was making myself a sandwich in the kitchen when a luminous angel suddenly appeared and started telling me about how wonderful and glorious heaven is. I listened for a while, then said matter-of-factly, “I’m going there” — meaning, of course, at the end of my life. The angel’s reply stunned me. “How do you know?” How do I know?

What kind of question is that? “Well, uh, I’ve tried to be a good kid,” I stammered. “I’ve tried to do what my parents say. I’ve tried to behave. I’ve been to church.” Said the angel, “That doesn’t matter.” Now I was staggered. How could it not matter — all my efforts to be compliant, to be dutiful, to live up to the demands of my parents and teachers. Panic rose in me.

Words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. The angel let me stew for a few moments. Then he said, “Someday you’ll understand.” Instantly, he was gone — and I woke up in a sweat. It’s the only dream I remember from my childhood. Periodically through the years it would come to mind, and yet I would always shake it off. It was just a dream.

Lee Strobel, The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives, Zondervan.

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