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Archive for Eden

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Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches (Genesis 2:8-10, NLT).

I cannot remember a year when my parents did not have a vegetable garden. Even in their late 80’s, they continue to till the soil, plant and water the seeds, and harvest the crop at the end of summer. As a kid, that was the image that came to mind whenever I heard the word “garden.” My first ministry assignment in St. Louis altered that mental picture. The church I served was across the street from the Missouri Botanical Gardens. One of the perks that came with pastoring that congregation was a key to the employee entrance located opposite our parking lot. Any time I wanted to go for a walk in the garden I simply let myself in. It was a different kind of garden, filled with exotic plants and trees from around the world. It was a sacred space in the midst of the steel and concrete of the city.

The Garden of Eden was certainly perfect, special and unique. The word garden is taken from a root that means “paradise,” referring to “an enclosed place.” In the strictest definition, a garden is a place that is set a part with unique boundaries, protected and distinct from the outside. So we can infer that the Garden of Eden was meant to be something special. The word Eden means “abundance” or “luxury.”

In one sense, all of creation became a garden in the galaxies. Yet in the midst of the goodness and perfection of creation, God planted a garden. It was not the garden of humankind, it was the garden of God; a sacred space where God could freely fellowship with the man and the woman. A holy place where God could demonstrate life as he intended, not unlike the holy of holies in the majestic Temple.

One can hardly begin to imagine such a place of beauty and abundance, where God crafted fellowship with human-kind and relationships between his created ones. I wonder if the language of Genesis can even begin to accurately describe what it was like. The verses read more like a definition than anything else. God placed the man and the woman he created in this garden.

But in the garden he also planted a choice. There was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. So what was the choice?
I don’t think the choice was between apples and oranges. I think at the core of the choice was the decision to be content to dwell in the image of God or to strive to become God. To make it about fruit is to miss the point of the story. To make it about contentment versus pride and ambition, however, hits pretty close to home, because that’s the stuff our daily decisions are made of.

As you know, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice. But the garden did not change, they changed. Their eyes were opened, they felt shame, and their innocence was lost. Death entered the picture. They were banished from the garden. Life outside the garden is no life. It is exile.

The good news is that in the midst of this tragic turn of events there is grace. God performed the first animal sacrifice and exchanged their humble fig leaves for animal skins. Even though they were evicted from the garden, God still cared for them and came to them. In his mercy God protected them from the tree they did not choose lest they live in their guilt forever. Their eviction was not punishment, it was protection. Neither was the image of God extinguished. Sometimes I think we’re so busy talking about the fall that we miss the grace that God immediately extended.

The first Eden fell, but the spiritual Eden is still with us. The story Adam and Eve, in a sense, is the story of the entire human race and all of creation. And the spirit of the original Eden is with us each time we sense that we were made for more than this; that there is more to life than this. We are trying to find Eden again. There’s a longing that aches and a hope that burns bright that there’s more to life that what we know and experience. We see glimpses of Eden from time to time. We hear it in a song or a story or even a smile. We see it in art and creation. We taste it in a meal shared over meaningful conversation.

All of these things are reminiscent of Eden, reminding us that we are not home, that we have been created for more, and that there’s more to come.
God created life and wants to be close to it. We have been exiled from Eden, yet we know it when we see it. That gives us hope, the hope that God is planting another garden and someday will put us in it.

Categories : Eden, Gardens, Genesis
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