the ‘heavenly gift’

Posted: September 20th, 2011 | Filed under: God, life | Tags: | 13 Comments »

This is the second in a series of word studies that I am doing to try to reveal the best explanation of a specific scripture.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. – Hebrews 6:4-6

What is “the heavenly gift”?

Life, grace, righteousness (Vines)

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. -Romans 5:16-17

Once again, scripture shows that Jesus cancels out Adam’s legacy. Adam brought condemnation. Jesus brought justification.

It’s depressing to me that people find it easier to believe in an angry God than a God of mercy. People find it easier to accept defeat than to believe in victory. The problem is that they can’t get over their relationship to the Law.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. –Romans 8:3

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. -1 Corinthians 15:56

Think of it like an abusive ex who was a good person until alcohol made him or her a terrorist. The fear-laced memory of the former is stealing your ability to be loved and accepted by anyone new.

It’s hard to accept a gift if you don’t trust the giver. What’s in it for them? And what are they going to require of you if you accept it?

I remember when I was six-years-old and living in a foster home with a couple that couldn’t conceive their own children. I always thought it was why the foster mom didn’t seem to like me. She would point out my flaws and had an uncanny knack for making me feel ashamed of myself for being me.

I was the only child in the house and used to sit in front of the mirror and pretend I had a friend. I would stare at my features trying to figure myself out. I had a hard time feeling real. Sometimes I would try to see my real mom in my face. But, most of the time I would stare at my body and wonder what made me unwanted.

When I would catch her watching me, she would tell me that I was “very vain” and walk away. Her words cut through me like a serrated blade and I literally winced.

I still wince.

I tried to be good and to show her that I had manners, but when I called her ‘ma’am’, she grabbed the skin on my throat, tugging me toward her so that we were face-to-face. While pinching my skin so hard that I could feel my heart beat in my neck, she gritted her teeth and told me that I was never to call her ‘ma’am.’

I wanted to give her gifts for Christmas, but had no money, so I went in my room and looked for something she might like. My real mom was a gypsy, and every time I got taken away from her she would give me pieces of her jewelry so that I would be connected to her. I went into my room and found one of my mother’s rings. I never would have given it away if I didn’t think it would make my foster mom love me.

I didn’t have a box, but wanted it to be safe, so I hid it in a wad of soft toilet paper. Then I sneaked a scrap of wrapping paper and some tape.

When I placed the gift under the tree, the foster mom went over and picked it up. I could tell I was about to be in trouble, but I knew that when she opened it she would be impressed. It was a piece of my six-year-old heart in that terribly wrapped wad. I suddenly felt ashamed seeing what looked like an odd piece of trash in her hand. Christmas was still a few days away, so it surprised me when she ripped it open. She was so rough with it that the ring fell on the floor.

She bent down to look at it and said, “Serena, you don’t give people your used junk as gifts.” Then she walked away.

I felt small and sick. The foster mom had rejected me and I betrayed my real mom. I picked up the tainted ring, threw it in the bathroom trash, and went to my room because I couldn’t hide my emotions. I felt alone and I wanted my mom back. I thought I was honoring her by throwing it and the memory it would now represent in the trash, but it kept calling out to me in my mother’s voice. I ran to the trash, dug it out, and put it under my pillow so that I could hold it in my hand all night. Cleansed with the sweat of my sticky palm.

I went on to several different foster homes after that. They weren’t all as lonely as that one, but I never did get my fill of love.

I told you all that to tell you that it has always been hard for me to accept love. After I became a Christian, I still felt like a foster child with God. I wasn’t one of His prized possessions. I was a dirty little street kid that He let come around. I felt like He had bonds with others that He didn’t share with me. I felt like He spoke secrets to others that He never told me.

I was still loyal to Him and tried to prove my worth. I wanted Him to love me and I never had to question it if I never did anything wrong. I relied on my conscience to give me a vacant spot on His floor. But, I still felt like an odd piece of trash in a scrap of wrapping paper.

When I sinned my huge, horrible sin, I was told that I was no longer welcome. All of His other kids told me that His love doesn’t reach to the depths of my filth and the decent thing would be to disappear. They honored Him by throwing me away.

I felt small and sick. My shame screamed in my ears and my heartbeat mocked my spirit. I was the rejected betrayer, once again. I was the ring calling out from the trash.

God came running after me. He left everyone in the house and called my name into the night.

God never spoke to me when I was earning my way the way He does now that I am incapable. I find His grace in the clarity of His voice. I find life in what I hear Him say. He never called me righteous until I knew for a fact that I wasn’t.

He held me through my night and cleansed me with the blood in his sticky palm.

That’s ‘the Heavenly gift.’

I only have a couple of photos of myself when I was a child. I have a photocopied picture of myself when I was six, but I ‘X’ed it out when I was little. A forever reminder of my self-worth. This is the closest I could get to my age from the story. It’s a picture of me when I was three.


Below are some suggestions for discussions:

Events in your past affect the way you handle life now. Things that you struggle with in your relationships, even in your own head, have a root. Often times, we make attribute human qualities to God. We limit Him. This makes it hard to trust His love, to accept His ‘heavenly gift’, and believe that He is not judging our worth based on us.

  • What do you think God sees when He looks at you?
  • Which human qualities are you attributing to God?



13 Comments on “the ‘heavenly gift’”

  1. 1 Linda Haffner said at 10:40 am on September 20th, 2011:

    1) What I think God sees when He looks at me? My initial response would be, "I don't have time for you Linda, you have too many hang-ups." But if I can block out those powerful, negative voices in my head and look real hard at the scars in His hands, I hear Him say, "I love you that much, you're MINE, all mine."

    2) Human qualities I'm attributing to God? That He's nothing like my earthly parents.

    3) What steps am I going to take TODAY in the direction of trusting Him? Surrendering my will and being still before Him.

  2. 2 serenawoods said at 1:52 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    Linda, are/were your parents like #1?

  3. 3 Linda Haffner said at 10:46 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    My parents were babies having babies. They loved each other and married at 15 and 18 so mom could escape her father who tried to molest her after he molested ALL five of her sisters. Her mother a devout Catholic also physically/verbally abused her kids. Because my parents got pregnant out of wedlock, she would say things like, "God's going to curse that baby you know!" Growing up deaf, I used to wonder if I was actually "cursed." I remember standing over my grandmother's casket praying, "I forgive you Nana, but God created me for a reason so I won't receive it!" Mom had 3 kids at 20.

  4. 4 serenawoods said at 11:05 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    That is so inspiring. 🙂 Growing up knowing that someone believed you would be cursed, all the while being deaf, and still having something inside of you that told you that made you believe that you were not cursed. That is, without question, God.

    I was having this discussion with my husband last night. I was exploring the fact that, in spite of my damaging childhood, I became an adult who is 'normal'. A lot of abused children grow up to be extremely dysfunctional adults, but for the most part, I didn't. I was exploring what it was that made the difference. I'm a fighter, no doubt, but is that all? I came to the determination that God counteracted every scream of terror with His soft whisper of hope. I didn't know what I was hanging on all that time until He let me see Him.

    I love your story….

  5. 5 Linda Haffner said at 2:25 pm on September 22nd, 2011:

    I love yours!

  6. 6 linda Haffner said at 10:47 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    (part 2) Don't get me wrong even though she struggled with negativism, she had wonderful qualities as a mother and tried very hard to do the right thing. She fought for me especially during my school years to make sure I had proper education. I got a Master's degree in Counseling for two reasons. First, to prove her wrong when she slipped up and said things like, "You're so stupid," etc…Second, because she pushed me to try harder. I blame a lot of my parent's mistakes on their parents. Dad's mom died when he was two. His father was so distraught and couldn’t handle raising a two yr old and a six month old baby, so they both lived with his mother. Dad was a womanizer growing up. I understood his pain and hunger to be loved and nurtured by a woman. Mom struggled with control, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse by her parents. I understood her pain too. But as an adult, I still find myself struggling with powerful negative words of the past and inner thoughts of my self-worth. Most of the time, I’m aware God sees me differently, but I tend to struggle at times.

  7. 7 Heather said at 12:01 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    This story is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us. I wish I could hug that 3 year old.

    My past has provided a great, solid, loving and supportive foundation. But I am learning it's never perfect. Deceit always finds a way in. Most of my biggest struggles come from me comparing myself today what I lived in the past. Some of these thoughts are, "I am not a good Christian wife if I work outside the home. I must not care about my children if I send them to a non Christian school." The disconnect for me is I do not judge other people this way. I truly see the lies in these thoughts, but I think God holds me to a different standard.

    And yet God keeps pushing me out. Stripping me of traditions and ways of the past, although not harmful, it's just not for me. He keeps whispering to me, "You are ready. Trust me." Peace comes for me when I stop worrying, analyzing, comparing. Today I am focusing on enjoying what God has given me. I am in new territory and a place that I didn't plan to be. And that is exactly where He wants me to be. It's a new day.

  8. 8 serenawoods said at 11:13 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    Heather, that kind of battle is, what I imagine, one of the hardest ones to fight. It's interesting to me that God was able to get you uncomfortable enough while still in the midst of comfort, to go deeper. It's evidence, to me, that He loves you and wants more of you. Bit by bit, He's reclaiming what's His and bit by bit you're losing and gaining. I get it. And I'm cheering.

    I've been told that, as a kid, I had a knack for stealing hearts. I probably would have hugged you back.

  9. 9 Eileen said at 8:47 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    Great thoughts, Serena. My stomach ached as I read how your foster mom treated you. I know that this lack of love from a parent figure is what many, many people struggle with when they try to grasp the idea of a loving Heavenly Father. Two things you said really stood out. "I relied on my conscience to give me a vacant spot on His floor." When I was younger I didn't comprehend this free gift of grace and I think when we don't, then this becomes our default reaction. We try to earn it. The other thing you said, "He never called me righteous until I knew for a fact that I wasn’t." It's not until we understand our desperate need for Him before we truly begin to fully accept His love.

  10. 10 serenawoods said at 11:14 pm on September 20th, 2011:

    Eileen, you got exactly what I wanted people to get. 🙂

  11. 11 Alyson said at 7:47 am on September 21st, 2011:

    It has taken many battle wounds for me to realize my total dependence on Christ. Each battle that ensues, a layer of my self has been painstakingly peeled away, but when that layer is off, there is no pain b/c of the faithful love of my Saviour. I now see the "peeling" times gifts so I am able to experience more of the fullness of Him. We are in the process of adopting a 14 yr. old from foster care (we have 10 and 8 bio daughters, too). This is yet another "one of those times" when I am daily experiencing the deep need for Him. I do.not.know.this child. I daily say to him, "She is your creation. You have created her innermost being. Help me." See, up to having her live with us, I operated in my parenting like I new what was best for my children. HA!! This experience has shown me EVEN MORE, I am nothing without Him. I am 42 and lived many years as an outsider. I am *getting* grace. I hid my sins (big and little) for years. I don't anymore. My children know the depths of my ickyness. I am cleansed by the Heavenly Gift. It is a daily choice, sometimes minute by minute to remember upon what He did and who I no longer am.

  12. 12 Kathy Schwanke said at 4:15 pm on September 22nd, 2011:

    I love this dialog. Don't you think that "getting grace" is part of the process of sanctification? That no one comes into Christ and "gets it" fully (though we have it's fullness as soon as we come into Christ.) the understanding of it comes in the walk… in a progressive revelation as we journey with Jesus.

    He enlightened me one day when reading Philippians 2:3 which says, "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…" that we are prone to getting off on the right or the left…selfish ambition is a desire to go higher (unbelief that we have fullness in Christ), vain conceit is thinking you are higher than others and looking down (pride by measuring our worth against people). It is in our being yoked with Jesus where we find the balance in our identity…

    I think we are prone to being off balance when it comes to grace as well. Some receive it very easily, but not to the point of admitting their need to turn from sin, and others have difficulty because of their acute awareness of sin and misunderstanding of the reality and simplicity of the gift {as you have expressed so well here}.
    What I love is that when we are children of God, He is wise enough to guide us into the truth by & through our life experiences. {AND greater light is found through fellowship with other believers, like here!}

    One time when I was struggling with anxiety, God gave me a dream, in it He asked me, "Why are you trying so hard to get what you already have? ~Righteousness" How freeing is that? But walking in the reality of that has been a life-long pursuit. Some days good, some not so… Even thought I know in my flesh is no good thing, I am still prone to respond by it's voice instead of in the Spirit. So. I just keep holding His hand, drawing near to Him, and praising Him for the blood that washes me from my foibles.
    My recent post It's A Happy Day!

  13. 13 Michelle said at 11:10 am on September 23rd, 2011:

    Thank you, Serena, for sharing this. I shared it on FB, hoping some of my friends will read and understand the effects of childhood abuse on a young soul. Maybe they will begin to understand how some of us have chosen paths so different from theirs, hoping to be found acceptable. Thank the Lord, He came after me…and you. He knew He would, it was written before the foundation of the earth, but still, until that moment…until He made sure we knew of His love…it was tough. It was painful.

    Thank you Jesus, for sharing the heavenly gift with me…with all who will come..and thank you for Serena's testimony. She is reaching me, through You…
    My recent post In Him

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