Lessons from the Garden of Eden 11: The Nature of God
This collection of essays has examined the nature of Sin, Good & Evil, Right & Wrong and Satan through the lens of the Garden of Eden Story. This is a formidable list of topics…but it isn’t complete without one more point of focus: The Nature of God.
Though the Garden Story reveals a number of qualities of God’s Nature, there are three in particular that will be examined here. First, God is the Creator, the Great Organizer, the One Who Can Make Something Out of Nothing. He is the Original and The Originator. He made the Universe and He made us.
We already know the creation of Man & Woman prompted a joyous, “Bravo!” from God thus making it clear that, as created, each and everyone of us is perfect as we are. But let’s take a quick overview of His first creation – the Universe and Earth. The natural balances that exist are mind-boggling. In fact, the greatest minds on Earth still don’t have the answers to how alot of the natural systems work. And recent highly-sophisticated (and enormously expensive) tests involving the acceleration of elemental particles to approach the speed of light are yielding results that put into question several major laws of physics and are undermining the foundations that have formed our understanding of the universe for almost a hundred years. Folks are actually whispering that Einstein may have been wrong! (Einstein theorized that it was impossible for anything to travel faster than the speed of light. During the acceleration tests, one particular particle keeps showing up faster than the others – including the light particles. Hmmmmmmm.)
Moving closer to home, look at how amazing the Earth itself is. Its balance of forces is remarkable. Water appears. The soil is moistened. Plants grow. Edible plants. Nurishment from dirt.
Animals eat the plants. Plants and animals die and re-fertilize the soil. Streams cleanse themselves. The air renews itself. Soils replenish themselves. The cycle works perfectly without the intervention of man. It generates, replenishes, rejuvenates all on its own.
Man needs to have much more respect for this process. For all our attempts, we have yet to be able to make Mother Nature run better.
Genetically altered plants? According to an article published recently (Oct, 2011) in the UK publication, “The Guardian,” genetically altered corn is creating problems of its own, such as superweeds that are resistant to all current herbicides. Is this progress, improvement?
A margarine advertisement popular in the 1960s made quite a stir with the line, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”
When it comes to repairing the worst of man’s damage – namely toxic waste dumps and land fills, what works best? Bacteria. Nature’s own remedial agents work best, fastest and most economically.
In the world of medicine, current techniques and the pharmacological approach to health and disease management/prevention have only been in practice for the last 100 years. Before the dawn of “modern medicine,” cures and remedies were drawn from plants and herbs. Acupuncture and other medicinal touch procedures sought to harness the body’s own energy for healing. Such techniques are still used today and preferred by many because they tend to stress prevention and health maintenance as opposed to the after-the-fact corrective action focus of western medicine.
Bottom line, there’s no escaping the power of Mother Nature for healing and renewal.
And when you take a close look at the most effective of western techniques and medicines, they tend to be based on plant/herb extracts or chemicals combined to mimic them.
No wonder God took a step back, looked at the created Heaven and Earth and declared: “It’s good!”
The second quality of the Nature of God that is revealed through the Garden Story is that He had direct interaction with the Garden Inhabitants. He conversed with them, He communed with them, He walked amongst them. And everyone in the Garden accepted that as the way it was. It is, therefore, an aspect of God’s Nature that He wants and does have an interactive relationship with His Creation and its Creatures on an individual basis. This is not a “group hug” situation. God is interested in individuals.
An interesting aside to make here is that the inhabitants were so comfortable with this situation that the serpent felt he could have his “discussion” with Eve without giving thought to God’s reaction. Since inadequacy creates a barrier/separation from God, perhaps the serpent was so disconnected due to his pervasive inadequacy that he gave no thought to God when he approached Eve.
Based on the position presented in these essays, it is logical to postulate that this is indeed the case. The serpent had so little consideration of God and His Presence that he brazenly contradicted God in order to launch his scheme.
Treachery and deceit in the Garden whilst God walked and communed directly with the inhabitants!
But enough of this digression….
The third – and most important -- revelation concerning God’s character provided by the Garden Story is this: In God’s perspective, nothing can separate us from Him and the Love He has for us.
He made the universe. He made us – and his conclusion was that everything was “very good.” Artists love their creations when they “totally work.” Parents love their children, often more than themselves for what loving parent wouldn’t sacrifice him/herself for their child? This is Reason One for His devotion – and, frankly, the only reason required. He created the world and us which made us all recipients of His Love.
What is the evidence that His Love flows continuously and cannot be stopped by anything we do? His reaction after the serpent’s victory with the Temptation. Let’s quickly highlight the main actions that arose in and around this event. Adam & Eve clearly ignored His warning. They received the knowledge of Good & Evil. They opted to believe they were inadequate and acted upon that inadequacy by covering themselves. They became ashamed of themselves – they chose to completely ignore God’s assessment of their special status as a created being and chose to be ashamed of themselves. And then they hid from God. They did not want to be in His presence and actively worked to remove themselves from His presence.
Now that’s five strikes against Adam & Eve and none of them “minor” transgressions. They not only chose to take the path of “not as intended,” they ran down it at full sprint.
Yet despite these five strikes, God sought out Adam & Eve after the temptation.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
When discovered by God, Adam explained the situation. What was God’s response? As mentioned in previous essays, He made them very aware there were consequences to their actions, but he did not stop loving them. He made them clothes. It’s interesting to note these were not fabrics of woven palm fronds or grass skirts. They were skins. Now God could have snapped His fingers to make them or sacrificed several of the animals in order to provide the coverings. In either case, the observation here is that He didn’t instruct Adam & Eve to do it themselves. He didn’t delegate the task. He did it Himself.
And finally, He didn’t throw Adam & Eve out of the Garden. He ushered them out. Why? Not as punishment, but to make it impossible for them to eat from the tree of eternal life. He did not want Adam & Eve to live forever in their adopted state of inadequacy.
So bottom line, though Adam & Eve chose to separate themselves from God, God continued to act lovingly toward them.
What does this say? God will NEVER stop loving us, nor stop being with us.
What does this mean? This becomes a constant within the universe. God will always love us, no matter what we do, no matter what we do to separate ourselves from him. In other words, He cannot not love us. It is against His Nature fo stop loving us. Which brings us to a realization we shall call the First Law of the Universe: We exist, therefore God loves us and we are always able to receive that Love.
This First Law makes evident what will now be known as The Second Law of the Universe: Separation from God only comes from us – men and women. If you or I don’t feel or believe we are in God’s presence, guess who moved? This is a paraphrasing of a statement that has graced countless posters and bumper stickers but is still and always will be true.
There is also a Third Law of the Universe revealed in the Garden Story: There are consequences to our actions that need to be experienced. Good or Bad, actions have results, and the Love God shows us remains through them, but does not mitigate them. Adam & Eve remained objects of His love, but they suffered the consequences of their actions.
But the key to truly living to the fullest in this world is belief in The First Law of the Universe. If we truly believe this – if this becomes our foundational world view, that God is with us no matter what – then we need to stop asking for signs of His presence or intentions. When we are full of doubt, we need to rather say, “Lord, help me see clearly what I need to see to see your hand at work in this moment.”
With this perspective in mind, let’s jump back to the story of “the other” temptation incident, Jesus in the desert. What we want to look at – in particular -- is one of His rebukes of Satan.
When taken by Satan to the highest point of the Temple and then taunted to take a leap, given assurance that Angels would come and break His fall, Jesus turned to Satan and said, “It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the Test.’”
This admonition begs the question, Why not? Why is it inappropriate to put God to the test?
To answer this question, let’s look at when we would do such a thing. Under what circumstances would we want to put God to the test?
Perhaps the most common time we would do this is when we want some sort of demonstration, as in, “God, please give me a sign.” When we ask something like this, what is really the motivation for such a request? Is it made out of belief or doubt?
If made out of belief, it would mean the basis of belief was, “God never leaves us, he is always there, always accessible.” If that were the case, then there would be no need for a sign, no need for a test request.
So, it seems any such request does not come from a basis of belief but from doubt.
When we begin to doubt the course of action we’ve undertaken, when the path gets dark, when fear and frustration make themselves known, that is when the requests for signs and tests come out of our prayers. When we experience doubt, fear, frustration and ask God for a sign or demonstration, in essence, to prove Himself, what we are really asking is for Him to compensate for our lack of belief/faith.
Ultimately, such lack of faith comes about because we are not entirely convinced that we are worthy of God’s blessing. To compensate for these feelings of inadequacy that are expressing themselves as doubt/lackof faith, we cry out for God to give us a sign. In our doubt, we ask God for a sign.
Why, then, is it inappropriate to put God to the test?
Because to do so is to ask the wrong question!
Putting God to the test is to say, in essence, “Lord, where are you?” It is a query that clearly stands contrary to the First Law of the Universe, which indicates it is rooted in the Second Law of the Universe. It is a question formed from and powered by doubt.
But, because of the First Law of the Universe, there is no place for doubting where God is or whether or not He loves us. His Presence, His Love are CONSTANTS.
Our doubt, our desire for a sign, is merely an indicator to us that we have forgotten to acknowledge and trust the First Law of the Universe.
Now, if as we hear ourselves ask this question we realize what is really happening, then instead of saying, “Where are you, God?” we will ask, “Why can’t I see You? I know You’re here because that’s who You are, so what is blocking me from seeing You at work in this moment in my life? What do I need to learn from this moment/period in my life?”
Turning the focus from God to ourselves brings a whole new dimension to prayer and a fresh, new perspective on life. It’s like being able to switch from “glass half empty” to “glass half full” in the snap of the fingers.
Wondering where God is is a question energized by inadequacy because it assumes something has broken the connection with God. And where there’s a break in that connection, there is a barrier we threw up because of some sort of inadequacy-fueled feeling or action. When we feel that disconnect, we assume it is because we did something wrong and are now unworthy. “If God stopped loving me,” we tell ourselves, “I must have done something really bad or are just not worth it because why else would God turn His back on me?”
But to say, “Lord, I’m experiencing doubt which means I’ve created a roadblock between me and You so, please, Lord, open my eyes that I may see what I need to see,” this correctly identifies the situation and grounds it in reality – the reality that God always loves us. Once grounded in that reality -- the First Law of the Universe – the responsibility for the doubt gets placed squarely where it needs to be. Suddenly, the fog of inadequacy gets lifted and everything begins to focus on adequacy. In essence, what is now being said is: “I know I have the ability to see You, help me see You! Help me learn what I need to learn to restore my connection to you.” And at that moment – guess what? The connection is restored!
When I’ve done this – usually in the midst of depression – that depression is instantly lifted and my perspective radically changes. I’m suddenly able to see things clearly and my attitude completely changes. It becomes energized. It turns positive.
There’s one more incident that is important for us to examine through the lens of the First Law of the Universe revealed through the Garden Story. It is the moment of Christ’s plea on the Cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is a powerful statement, considering who utters it. How is it that the Son of God could cry out that he had been forsaken, that His Father had turned His Back on Him? Did God finally allow His Love to lapse?
Before we allow that God had a lapse in His Love – no matter how justified that might be given the “big picture” – let’s look at the complete chain of events.
Yes, Jesus died on the Cross. But, three days later, God raised Him from death.
Did God turn His back on His Son, allow Him to die, to be overtaken by the ultimate grip of sin, only to raise Him, snatch Him from the clutches of death in a fit of remorse?
Or is this whole chain of events just one more example of God’s unbroken, uncompromised commitment to His Creation?
Let’s view this series of events through the lens of the Garden Story and see where we come out….
The Story tells us God’s Love is constant and nothing can break His Love for us. So, this means God never turned His back on Jesus, never forsook Him. Does this, then. mean Jesus was mistaken or confused when He cried out?
Jesus’ plea is a truthful, earnest expression of exactly what He was feeling at that moment. Jesus was experiencing a break in His connection with God, with His Father. But how could this be, given who He was (is) – the Son of God – and given how He led His life – sinless, always in connection with God, living who He was in full adequacy as intended. “The Father and I are One,” is a claim He made. But now, at this moment on the Cross, He’s saying that is not the case. Such historical context seems to make this statement absurd.
What’s happening here?
The best way to answer this is to answer another question first: How could Jesus ever say such a thing since He and God are One?
The answer is in the Garden Story. What is the one condition that breaks our communion with God? What creates the barrier we set up between us and God? Sin. And what is sin? Inadequacy…believing we are “not as intended” and therefore, unworthy of God’s Love.
Jesus went to the Cross to bear our sin. With sin being defined as inadequacy, this means Jesus assumed/opened himself to the burden of inadequacy. He bore the entire burden of unworthiness for the first and only time in His life. He assumed the belief He was inadequate. And what happens when we believe we are inadequate? We believe we are unworthy of God’s Love and blessings. That belief sets up the barrier that blocks our relationship with God.
This is what Jesus experienced on the Cross. As he assumed the mantel of inadequacy, He experienced the separation from God it creates and as the perfect expression of that inadequacy-powered blockade, He cries out – “Where are You? Why have You Left Me?”
Jesus, a healthy man of 33 died on the Cross, not from physical wounds, but from the natural consequences of the deepest, darkest clutches of inadequacy-driven despair.
What happens when you experience profound despair and depression? You feel weak. Your arms feel as though they are made of stone. It takes great effort to make your feet take the next step forward. You really just want to collapse and melt into a pool of black despair. You want to die. At that point, it seems the only escape. And that’s why Jesus died on the Cross. The darkest feelings of despair fueled by a massive, concentrated dose of inadequacy, literally sucked the life from Him.
I have felt great despair in my life. I have cried out from the pain – “Lord, please take me!!!”
And so it was at the Cross.
God did not forsake Jesus.
Jesus experienced the separation from God that is fueled by inadequacy and cried out in his despair.
And as an expression of His constant, abiding Love, God raised Jesus from the dead, pulled Him from the despair and put Him back in His intended role.
God is Faithful.
This is, perhaps, the most powerful lesson of the Garden of Eden Story.
Realizing this. Believing this. Trusting this. That’s the game changer in life.
That’s when Truth, Clarity and Adequacy can start empowering Life.
And we can begin to benefit from the true Nature of God, our Creator, our Companion, our Constant.