Tag Archives: Garden of Eden

Longing for Eden

Once upon a time a garden grew
Where darkness had covered and Spirit flew
Planting the seed of something new:
The conception of Eden.

Beauty and order, life and light
Sprang from the earth and ended the night
God in His garden declared it all “right”:
The birth of Eden.

Not yet finished, good but not best
God stepped back and man failed the test.
Fruit prematurely plucked, cursing the rest:
The loss of Eden.

Again God came near and His Spirit hovered,
Planting the Seed in the womb of another
Angels sang with hope recovered:
The promise of Eden.

Withered vines healed, fruit restored
Mustard seed grew, moving toward
A garden more sweet and full than before:
The glory of Eden.

Still unfinished, the garden felt its lack
As thorns pierced His brow and He took its flack.
Sun hid its face as earth received Him back:
The Seed of Eden.

Garden grows on, new fruit arrives.
Pink cheeks fill our hearts, rosy dreams fill our eyes.
We celebrate the gift of life:
The joy of Eden.

Dark shadows steal over fresh rosy cheeks.
Mother heart pierced, father heart weeps.
Fruit prematurely plucked, hope and curse meet:
The death of Eden.

Sun still comes up but limp limbs hang down.
What comfort, what purpose in going on?
Empty arms, barren trees, sweet fruit now gone:
The loss of Eden.

But sure as the dawn we for look for the morn
When seed will again sprout, life be reborn
Empty tomb greet those who show up to mourn:
The resurrection of Eden.

Until then we tarry, inspired to nurture
The garden around us, our friends, family, culture.
Preparing the earth for its bright promised future:
The coming of Eden.

In Memory of
Eden Wang-Hua Clark
July 2, 2014–October 20, 2014

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When My World Fell Apart

I never realized how much I took for granted until so much of it was taken from me. Physical safety. Financial security. A sense of control over what happened to my body, my possessions, my future. The ability to predict how others would act: confidence in my friends’ solidarity with me and certainty in what God would never allow my enemies to do to me.

When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
Psalm 30:6-7

But in one tidal wave of events, the peace of the garden was replaced by the chaos of the flood. My assumptions of how the world worked were overturned, my soul left tumbling and swirling in a sea of helplessness and confusion. The foundational truth of the first Psalm, that the righteous always stand firmly planted by God’s nourishing stream, gave way to experiences that forced me to question everything I had ever known.

The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the LORD on high is mighty
Psalm 93:3-4

That tame, predictable stream had now run over its banks, rising until it threatened to completely engulf me. The world was no longer a safe, nurturing place for me, those who populated it no longer a source of understanding and acceptance. Who could comprehend the atrocities that had been forced on my body, the horrors that would forever be imprinted on my soul? Who could protect me from further attack, both in physical reality and in the ongoing reality of my memories?

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do ?”
Psalm 11:3

As the fallout of those experiences continued to break over me, I felt myself being washed away in a torrent of devastation and confusion. My secure foundations crumbled beneath my feet, failing me just when I had counted on them the most. Tossed about by the chaos of uncertainty and the power of destructive forces, I reached a breaking point within myself.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me… In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
Psalm 18:4-5, 16-18

I could no longer cope with the overwhelming circumstances without and the rising terror within. Without immediate intervention, I would be overcome. I cried out to God in panic, a drowning soul with nothing else to grab on to. And He showed up with an ark.

The ark of His love saved me from the overwhelming flood of my trauma.

Safe in His hold. Secure in His love. His ark held me through the gale that continued to swirl all around me. This ark of our relationship was one that He had called me to build long before I could have comprehended the life preserver it would turn out to be. Year after year I had worked on it, dutifully laying plank after plank of prayer and Bible study, faith-building choices and love-driven obedience. Little did I know that what I thought I had been constructing for His sake, He was planning for mine.

O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.
Psalm 89:9-10

As my life as I had known it continued to be washed away by trauma’s flood, I found rest in the sweet security of my relationship with God. His unfailing love for me became my anchor in the storm, my safe place in the midst of danger, my true north through waves of disorientation. He became my defining circumstance. More than the storms of traumatic events, more than the messy wasteland of their aftershocks, His unshakeable love formed the foundation in which I could root myself.

God became my defining circumstance.

The storm did eventually subside. The waters slowly receded, revealing the radically altered terrain of my world. Relationships redefined. Circumstances changed. I held back, afraid to emerge from the safety of the ark, reticent to leave the comfort of the cocoon. But His dove-like Spirit nudged me forward, assuring me with the rainbow-sealed promise of His ongoing presence.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall…
Psalm 46:1-5

Together we have done a lot of rebuilding, not according to the blueprints of my former life, but from scratch, making something new. For a long time I looked back and mourned all that I had lost; I now rejoice in what I have gained. New roles. Different abilities. New communities. Old relationships, deeper for having withstood the storm. But most of all, I rejoice in the new identity He has given me, one so firmly rooted and established in His love that I no longer fear the future. Now more than ever, I am that tree flourishing in the garden, roots sunk deep into the stream of Living Water.

Pentecost: Re-igniting Glory

“I’m not sure what to think about Gollum. He is so evil and disgusting, but I still feel sorry for him. I kind of wish something good would happen to change him back into the man he used to be.” My twelve-year-old son’s observations about Tolkien’s pathetic, twisted character match my own take on humanity.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame ? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
Psalm 4:2, 6

Obsessed with the beautiful bauble dangling before us, we gave up life in Eden to pursue our deluded heart’s desire. We turned from the light of God’s face to gaze into the mirror of our own distorted reflections. Like the characters in Tolkien’s story, we turned from the glory of the Garden to the grey, lifeless towers of our own making. From Eden to Babel we chased after our own glory, and in the process we lost it.

We turned from the light of God’s face to gaze into the mirror of our own distorted reflections.

Decay. Corruption. Falling short.

Distrust. Isolation. Fragmentation.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 1:13-15

But God did not quit on us. He did not turn His back and leave us in our dark, lonely cesspools, chewing on bones and mumbling over our “precious.” He wrapped His glory in a soft, warm body and dwelt among us. He shone the light of His face through the eyes of a Man who looked beyond our faded facades and loved the remnant of His image within.

If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
John 14:7-9, 16-17

For a brief time, God’s glory was once again visible in the face of Christ. When the disciples looked at Him, they saw the Father. His glory began to dawn within them. Glimpses of unity. Glimmers of love. But Jesus’ bodily presence was only a temporary, external solution. He prepared His disciples for His departure by promising them His Spirit, who would come and live within them instead of among them.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1-4

And so it happened, just ten days after His ascension. Gathered disciples, sitting enclosed within man-made walls. Wind and fire, moving freely the way they had when they parted the sea and led God’s people through the wilderness. God’s glory flame returned, blowing through their midst and settling on each of them the way it had once settled on the tabernacle and the temple.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…
Colossians 1:21-23

In one of God’s grand reversals, the ugly effects of Babel were overturned in a instant. Language barriers dropped. Alienating behaviors overcome. The church broke out of its walls and began to speak the love of God to everyone outside. The Spirit of God took His mobile sanctuaries to the world, connecting with each person in the language of his or her heart and gathering them into one glorious kingdom, one beautiful Bride.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

This is the story that we are living today. We are that Church, the living, breathing sanctuary of God’s Spirit. His glory has returned to us and is living within us, transforming our isolated, Gollum-like selves into a loving, nurturing, unified community. Sometimes our ugly wins out over our beautiful, but His Spirit will not quit on us until He has so filled us with His love that we overflow with it. Empty and distorted as we were, we are being filled with the Spirit of God until our lowly bodies reflect His glorious image. Our glory is back!

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:14