Genesis 2:16, 17 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
God begins with a large liberty and blessing—eat and enjoy anything and everything with one small exception. Even the prohibition is a blessing—it is not for God’s sake but for man’s that he is to avoid the poisonous tree. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not placed in the garden as a trap, but as a gift by which humanity could grow personally and relationally with God. All that God gave was so obviously good that it took no faith or trust to follow him, but simply selfish interest, for love of his gifts rather than for him. In such a situation we would follow like children chasing an ice cream vendor—without thinking or reflection or even real choice, but love must be a commitment grounded in trust for it to be solid and meaningful. This forbidden tree was the opening for a genuine and deliberate choice to love and trust God.
Adam’s and Eve’s will and God’s will were aligned in every conceivable way but one, and every aspect of it was delightful and pleasurable. They had such a small sacrifice to make to stay in paradise, while our road is so much harder, requiring so much more faith to follow God. How did they fold so quickly? Ease of circumstances does not build robust character. Character is forged in the fires that test our mettle. It is not the intoxicating first passions that measure our love, but the set of our hearts when we face the formidable task of daily self-sacrifice. Don’t show me Valentine’s Day, but the baby’s first teething as the evidence of one’s love.
We often think of losing paradise as the Great Catastrophe, but the only catastrophe would be losing God, and they didn’t. God walked with them into the harsh world outside the garden—we see him speaking to Cain as he once spoke to Adam. Perhaps we humans were not yet ready for paradise, and we needed the path of thorns to grow our hearts into the shape of God’s. The wonderful news is that God walks with us on this difficult way, not only supporting us, but taking our pain on himself. We are not alone, we are not abandoned, but he is with us through every aching step.
Father, when the pain and confusion are large, I struggle to trust your love and good intentions towards me. I wonder if I have done something wrong, if you are punishing me or neglecting me to “teach a lesson.” Remind me again that all your intentions are gracious towards me and I cannot fumble away your love since it is not in my hands to begin with but in your unchanging heart.