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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:5-7
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ...

(The serpent speaks) "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened.

The tree was planted there in plain sight. God told them not to eat from it. When would he have given them permission?

We will never know. Listening to that sideways advice from the serpent was the worst mistake our ancestors could have made. They settled for a secret early bite of the magnificent fruit God must have made for them to eat in full when they were ready. And of course neither they nor we have ever tasted the tiniest morsel of fruit from the second tree, the tree of life.

Imagine their disappointment when the rush of joy and strength brought by their new self-awareness was so suddenly displaced by fear and shame. Actually, it isn't so hard to imagine.

Like Adam and Eve, I have been created to live in the Garden of Eden. I long to live in complete communion with God, the whole family of man and woman and all the creatures of creation, loving without hesitation from the inside out.

But I live this whole other way, outside the garden. The earth has not stolen God's thunder, but I have. Following inexorably in the footsteps of those first victims of immediate gratification, I too do not wait for God. I know the longings of Adam, and have inherited his habits. I try to fill those longings like he did. On my own.

In the Bible God cries out, "If only you had paid attention to my commands your peace would have been like a river!" (Isaiah 48:18) He tells me over and over to wait, to hold on only to him, to restrain myself. (e.g. Psalm 27:13-14, Isaiah 30:15-18 among many others) But ... no.

Perhaps I begin to understand what he wants. I think over days and years I am absorbing a little of this patience he calls the fruit of the Spirit. The kingdom of God is at hand, Jesus says. Follow me. Look neither to the right nor left, do nothing else, just follow me ... to the river that flows, the trees that never die, back to the garden.

Oh, Lord, I want to learn to wait. You are teaching me. I am learning. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!

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