With wedding stress behind me, I’m still recuperating from the lack of sleep over the last few months. I’m reposting this piece from January because I want to remind us all of what I started the year off pondering. I hope to continue to examine the two trees of Eden’s garden next week. Thank you for your patience!
Then God surveyed everything He had made, savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness. –Genesis 1:31a (The Voice version)
Suddenly their eyes were opened to a reality previously unknown. For the first time, they sensed their vulnerability and rushed to hide their naked bodies, stitching fig leaves into crude loincloths. Then they heard the sound of the Eternal God walking in the cool misting shadows of the garden. The man and his wife took cover among the trees and hid from the Eternal God. –Genesis 3:7-8 (The Voice version)
I’ve often reflected on what the world must have looked like at the dawn of creation. In the past, I’ve bemoaned living in a ‘fallen’ world. A world where Evil reigns and goodness is tarnished. A world that disappoints God.
My perspective is changing.
I don’t know why I never saw some of the things I’m now seeing in the Bible. I hadn’t seen, for example, that no evil existed in the Garden of Eden. God proclaimed everything good! Even the serpent is called ‘crafty’ not ‘evil.’ Peter Enns, a noted Bible scholar, tells of a conversation he had in graduate school with a Jewish friend from Israel. You can read it here. So, Jewish interpretation doesn’t necessarily agree with our ‘enlightened’ western-thinking minds interpretation of creation. The Genesis creation story may not be all about how we-messed-up-the-world-and-God-got-so-angry-that-He-disowned-us? The evangelical, protestant assertions may be … wrong? Or, to say it more gently, at least incomplete? Huh?!
As I continue to ponder the ideas from my last post, my thoughts gravitate to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. If no evil existed in the Garden of Eden, why would God need to caution mankind away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Maybe because our minds are pre-disposed to thinking our own way (free-will). If we stop relating to God, we focus on pecking orders and rankings and a need to play ‘king of the hill’ to prove our worth and relevance. In order for us to have worth, some have to be worthless. In order for us to be good, some have to be evil or ‘not good.’ When we obsess over value-judging people, intentions, or behaviors, we hide ourselves in shame–because our personhood, intentions and behaviors are up for grabs for God and others to judge ‘not good.’ Interesting that knowledge is the tree’s focus. Interesting that the Pharisees focussed on knowledge of the Law (good and evil). Was their religious system the embodiment of that tree? Their religious system certainly created shaming, judging and a desire to one-up others to be considered ‘righteous’ before men and God. Sound familiar in the 21st century?
Interesting that Jesus never said that he was the knowledge. Instead, he claimed he was ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ We have equated ‘truth’ with ‘knowledge’ in our reasoned thinking. Jesus didn’t seem to define ‘truth’ in that manner. He challenged teachings that we could find life in behaviors, rules, choices–that if we could just figure out the formula, all would be well with us and God.
Then, where and how do we find true life? The Sunday-school-answer is Jesus.
There, isn’t that helpful?
All clear now?
Okay, maybe the following ways that I find joy and life in Christ will help you consider what brings you life:
- Living the teachings of Jesus. I focus on how Jesus interacted with people in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I try to filter the rest of the Bible through his example and interpret passages based on his teachings. I fail often; but I’m beginning to recognize more quickly when my heart seeks my own ego and not Jesus’ example.
- Learning to love God and walk with Him in all of life. Seeing all of life and its seasons–nature’s seasons, life-cycle seasons, the soul’s seasons–as ‘good’; because all of life and its seasons reveal different facets of God’s infinite complexity, infinite wonder, infinite grace, infinite wisdom.
- Learning to love myself–warts and all (that’s one of the hardest for me!). Learning to love others out of the humility that comes with loving myself and the grace of loving God.
- Sitting in silence and learning to abide in the presence of God (in prayer, meditation, contemplation)–which means turning off computers, phones, and television….
- Listening to others and their experiences with God. Never underestimate the profundity of life stories and how they create openings for the Holy Spirit to heal and grow our understanding of God’s ways and thoughts.
- Looking for opportunities to make another’s life better. Remember ‘random acts of kindness’? Doing that–not as a fad, but as life-giving investments that may lead others to open their hearts to the magnificence of God and how they find the tree of life.
- Savoring moments of accomplishment. My daughter got me hooked on hiking ‘The Incline’–an extreme hiking trail which is the remains of narrow, steep railway tracks. The first time I hiked it with her, my legs felt like Jell-O. I had to stop every 25 steps sucking air due to low-oxygen altitude and gulping much-needed water. About half-way up and feeling intimidated by the steep grade before me, Em stopped and told me to look behind us. ‘Look how far we’ve come. How small our car looks in the parking lot. How beautiful the view of Manitou and Colorado Springs is from here.’ It took my breath away in awe (not oxygen-deprivation) to enjoy the fete of endurance we’d accomplished to that point … and it kept me going to the trail leading back to the car. I love thinking of that seventh day as God savoring, relishing and delighting in His creation … and then telling us to do the same!
These suggestions serve as some examples of how I find the life in Christ. You may be thinking of others that work for you. I’d love to hear your suggestions! This year, I’m trying to recognize when I fall into the judging habits that come from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eventually, we will have to deal with the reality of evil, suffering, and pain in this world. Because we see atrocities every day in the news that have nothing to do with the tree of life. I need more time to formulate thoughts on those traumas.
For now, I want to experience more and more of the joy and freedom that come from the tree of life! And help others find that there is another tree from which to eat. One that enlivens and makes us unashamed of our vulnerabilities. One that beckons us, ‘Come!’, without fear–because God’s favor rests on us!
I welcome comments! Please keep them respectful and constructive.us