Genesis 2:8, 9 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.
From this day onward, Eden becomes the symbol of all that is pristine and perfect, the only golden age that ever existed outside of imaginary nostalgia. It becomes the home for which we are always longing but can never find because we bring into every virgin place the old us. Everywhere we go we fill with our own fleas. We think of Eden as the place of ultimate beauty and goodness which we spoiled, but the real paradise we lost is the beauty and goodness within.
Peace is a place in the heart, not a place in the world. No external pleasure can give us joy and no faithfulness in others can instill that character in our own hearts. When we are padded in life, surrounded by ease and minimal temptations, a spiritual gated community, we might grow into an easy virtue, but such virtue has no real strength and is blown over in the first storm. We may seem patient when the waiting room is full of toys and games, but fill it with screaming babies and a migraine and our nickel-pack virtue will soon run out. We develop real character—courage, steadfastness, faith, love–only by facing strenuous and extended challenges. True goodness is forged in the fire.
As long as we look for Eden outside of ourselves–the perfect job, the ideal spouse, the dream home–to fix our damaged hearts, we will simply barricade in our problems, push them farther back from our awareness and make them more resistant to the painful healing touch. Those are bandaids over our infected wounds. It is not an ideal environment that brings us to a good place, but an honest and trusting heart that opens us up to the redemptive work of God.
Father, reorient me again to that path of progress for my heart’s redemption by means of the harsh and painful tools of an inhospitable world. Give me courage to face the struggle by faith and push towards a new Eden, a garden of goodness within. And give me encouragement along the way.