Longing for Eden
“What do you feel when you think of Eden?”
That was the question posed to my small group yesterday. Some felt Eden was the epitome of perfection: lush gardens, good fruit, sunny and 75°. Others weren’t as excited; the mosquitos, beads of sweat across their foreheads and things that generally accompany a jungle/garden didn’t seem exactly “heavenly”.
The discussion veered towards what we know about Eden from the Bible. We talked about the rivers and trees, which God made pleasing to man’s sight and for man’s tasteful satisfaction. There were precious metals and other living animals. And there was mankind, made from dust yet paradoxically filled with life by the breath of God (literally). But the best, most beautiful thing about the garden? There was God himself. God lived with man, his beloved creation.
Enter sin. Adam and Eve eat the only forbidden fruit and down falls mankind, deceived by a serpent who has not one good intention for them (or us). Because sin has entered mankind, they can longer live in the presence of a holy, mighty, perfectly good God. Evil and perfect goodness do not mix. Adam and Eve and the rest of mankind are exiled from Eden.
At this point, a girl in my small group asks what exactly they (and we) are exiled from. We throw around a few answers…The garden, man is exiled from there. The perfect goodness and happiness of the garden. Provision and peace and fullness of life. Finally, an all-encompassing answer comes out. We are exiled from God. At the fall of mankind to sin, we lost the place we were made for: the garden.
You were made for the garden. I was made for the garden. We are wired for a safe, satisfying, life-giving existence in the garden. That’s why sin hurts. We snap at people in anger and later regret it. We turn to whatever can blur out the painful realities we face again and again without any long-lasting results. We withdraw thinking a break from reality will help, but reality doesn’t change. We manipulate others but aren’t happy afterwords. We relentlessly search out “cures” for our anger, sadness, and confusion via whatever appealing thing this culture can offer: travel, other people, good food, gossip, harsh words, thoughts of malice, Facebook, and on and on and on. Why do we turn to these things for “comfort”? Because there is sin in this world that doesn’t feel settled in our hearts. And we will do whatever we can to try to fix or rid that sin.
Here’s the Truth (I use a capital “T” because Truth is a person). You will never honestly and fully be content and joyful in this world if you don’t have the cross of Jesus atoning the sins of your life. Never. You cannot be cured of any earthly sorrow without Christ. Someone had to make a way for the exiled mankind, stuck in sin, to come back into the presence of God. Someone had to live a perfect life and then take the penalty for the sins of all who couldn’t. That is justice. God is just; He couldn’t simply overlook our sins and still be a just God. We wouldn’t overlook a thief’s crime and still call ourselves servants of justice. Justice is you getting what you deserve. As exiled sinners, we deserved separation from God forever. That’s Hell, the absence of God. Instead, Jesus took what we deserved. And as a result, we who claim Christ’s cross for our penalty of sin are no longer exiles of the garden.
But we aren’t back in the garden yet. We have the Spirit of God in our hearts, in our lives, but we don’t yet live in the literal presence of our God. That’s coming. Christian, that is coming. Our eternity is the new heaven and the new earth, the second and better Eden. Here’s our proof:
“Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
Do you see it? Your sinful heart- the jealously, insecurity, impatience, lust, comparison, mistrust, fear, vengeance, hurt, manipulative ways, bitterness, and apathy- will be rebuilt. Your desolate being and the sin of this broken world will be renewed and fortified; it will be perfected like Eden. All because of Jesus.
So. Long for Eden. Pray to long for Eden. Know that your struggles on earth are not a picture of eternity. But, let your struggles on earth sweeten the picture you have of eternity in heaven, where no bad thing will exist. Let the hurt of whatever reality you face remind you that you were made for the garden, not for the sin of this world. And most importantly, believe in the only Savior who makes this hopeful, eternal life possible. Believe in Jesus.
I’ll leave you on one last note. My pastor (whose sermon inspired much of this post) said this last Sunday. He said, “There is no record in the Bible of God starting with something beautiful and making it more beautiful. He always starts with something broken and desolate, and makes it beautiful.” You are desolate by nature. But that is the only thing God would use to make beautiful.