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There is No “I” in Eden

Yesterday was a full day.  The majority of it was spent out in Forsyth county at a soccer tournament, where I was able to squeeze a run in between games through subdivisions set up in the middle of the country.  We ended our day at Centennial Park, getting in on the last two bands of the night (the festivities there began in the afternoon while we were still in soccer world).  The night finally came to a close after we drove an intoxicated girl, who we met wandering outside the park on the way to our car, home, a task made more difficult by the fact she was too drunk to remember her address or anyone’s phone number we could call to find out exactly who she was and where to take her.  Though at first glance the soccer parent crowd and the hippy, high and generally wasted crowd at Party in the Park seemed quite in contrast with one another, it is interesting to see how the person and work of Jesus shows me just how similar we in fact all are.

The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.   The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.  In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.   He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.  Is. 11:7-12

As evidenced in my writing this week, I’ve been thinking a great deal about “home” lately, not so much a house but that sense of being a round peg in a round hole, a bunny in its burrow, a hand in a well made glove.  I’ve had an inescapable yearning in the past couple of weeks for beautiful surroundings, a restful environment and to be surrounded by people who are well spoken and refined.  Maybe I’ve just gotten a little worn down by the boarded up businesses and houses, the broken sidewalks, people walking and speaking in mumbles I don’t understand or not speaking at all.  But when I was running yesterday in this movie set of a suburban subdivision, I saw the most idyllic backyard pool setting and it helped me understand what I have been wanting.  That home had created a little taste of paradise in their backyard, which is what so many houses offer in luxurious bathrooms, gourmet kitchens, creative children’s bedrooms or play spaces, and resort like master bedrooms.  Eden sells because it promises our hearts’ deepest craving for peace, rest, contentment and satisfaction.  It is to own a little piece of Eden that motivates us to climb to the top educationally and in our careers.  It is to experience Eden’s sense of completion and wholeness that we look to weddings, babies, perfect jobs, new places or even vacations…where we might feel less of the toil of our labors and more of the harmony, comfort and shalom of our true “home”.  The crowd in the park was grabbing for this peace by altering their senses and minds for a few hours last night, finding rest in escape, and harmony with one another by blocking out the unpleasantness and enjoying imagination and freedom that has been lost or even stolen in this present world.  There was Eden in that place last night, for many, even if only momentarily and even if upon waking this morning it will be shattered with excruciating head aches and upset stomachs, and perhaps a few humiliating memories.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”   Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.  Gen. 1:26-31

But Eden was never an individualistic community.

Eden was not created for Adam alone or for Eve alone.  And that is where they had it wrong from the beginning.  As soon as they disregarded God and each other to get more of the good of Eden for themselves, Eden began to slip from their grasp.  They had all they needed and then more.  It wasn’t even that they were supposed to be happy being one of the masses, because they had been given rule and reign over all the rest of creation.  But just like the way I feel about group projects in school, they too preferred to have control all to themselves, not for the benefit of Eden and all of creation, but for their own satisfaction, control and power.  I can’t be effectively committed to getting “what’s mine” and ensuring the thriving of others at the same time.  One will have to be set aside for the other.  Unexpectedly, one of those choices actually produces the flourishing of both, but it is seldom the choice sin persuades to me to make.

You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.  Ezek. 34:4-6

I can’t really be all that interested or concerned in the person next to me when I can’t even formulate a sentence properly.  The escape of drugs and alcohol is just that, it is an exit from the place and people immediately around me, bringing vacation even if just for a moment, but offering greater isolation to those sharing the same space.  Similarly, an incredible backyard paradise provides a taste of Eden to all who are welcome to enjoy it, but as long as it remains in one person’s backyard alone, it might serve as an advertisement of better things to come, but is only a mirage of the new heaven and new earth and not the reality itself.  The good shepherd does not merely feed himself and experience shalom.  The Good Shepherd gathers, protects, feeds and grows his whole flock, wanting none to perish.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:10-11

I don’t begrudge the behavior of the girl we drove home last night.  While I haven’t found myself in the car of strangers, I share her longing to taste Eden now, even if what I am drinking is a toxic and poor imitation.  And it is the dissatisfaction that greets her this morning, that meets the homeowners as they maintain that pool year after year through falling leaves and broken pumps and winter storms, that both reminds me I need a Good Shepherd outside of myself and that like Him, the rule and reign I’ve been offered involves laying my life down for the  fullness of life for the whole flock.  That is when it will be on earth as it is in heaven.

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