The Miriam Parable
by Glenn A. Hascall
Once there was a peasant girl named Miriam who lived in a small village. Her widowed mother had spent much time instructing the girl about the proper way to behave and taught Miriam right from wrong.
The summer of her twelfth year, Miriam's family became quite destitute. A region-wide drought caused the family's garden plot to wilt, then die. There would be no vegetables to put up and savored through the cold months ahead. Food became very difficult to find.
At first, Miriam missed the taste of fresh corn and carrots. Then she craved them. Each day Miriam had to venture further from home to find water for her family's needs and every day she desired what she had always taken for granted. Then the day came when Miriam discovered an artesian well. Water gushed forth providing fresh, clean, cold water from deep under the ground.
She followed the stream as it flowed from the well and discovered a beautiful garden filled with sweet corn, potatoes, carrots and cabbage and a generous variety of vegetables more numerous than she had ever seen. She could almost taste a fresh pot of homemade stew made from the abundance of these beautiful plants. The longer she looked at the garden, the more she desired the crops.
After entertaining the idea for far too long, Miriam hurriedly loaded her apron with as much vegetables as she could carry and then she returned the way she came, glancing furtively behind her, knowing she had stolen - knowing that what she had done was wrong.
"Where did you get those vegetables?" A man's voice startled Miriam.
"I uh," she stammered, "I found them."
"In the middle of a drought?" The man queried. "I think not," he challenged gently.
Miriam wrestled with defiance, then anger, followed by a rather feeble attempt at justifying her act of thievery. In the end she could do no less than admit that she had indeed stolen the garden produce.
"I knew that you took my vegetables," the man stated.
"Your vegetables," Miriam blustered.
"`Tis true. I have worked hard all summer growing these crops and I had grand plans for them," the man added significantly.
"I am so ashamed," Miriam replied bowing her head.
The man wad warmed by Miriam's act of contrition. "I am willing to extend to you either mercy or grace. Which is your desire?" The man asked.
"Are they not the same thing, sir?" Miriam asked.
"Indeed not, my lady," the man replied.
"Then please explain what mercy provides?" she asked.
"If I were to grant mercy, you would be completely forgiven for taking my vegetables," the man replied.
"Then this is what I most desire," the young girl said relieved.
"Perhaps this is true, yet you will hear the matter of grace," the man insisted, "Should I extend grace, you would be invited to come and gather any vegetables from my garden that you like at any time you like. It would be as if you were a member of my family with all the rights of a daughter."
Miriam marveled at the gifts offered to her. She knew that she did not deserve the man's kindness and yet she longed in equal measure for both mercy and grace.
"Sir, I do not deserve either mercy or grace. For I deserve a punishment and am in no way deserving of the rights of a family member. Still, I could not leave with a pure heart without an equal measure of both," Miriam said with a tear gleaming in her eye.
The man smiled broadly and replied, "My dear child, you shall indeed have both - Mercy and Grace. For in my mercy I will not exact a punishment that is justly deserved and in my grace I will give to you what can never be earned."