Often one of the first questions asked of us is: “Where do you live?” It can be an important part of how we describe ourselves, how others see us. We consider it part of our history, a clue to our identity and how we live.
The Bible tells us we were created to live in God’s home, in a garden. A place of unimaginable wonders, full of life and beauty. A place of perfect union with our Creator and each other. Paradise. Oh, and one more thing was given to us in that garden: free will.
All this! Who could want more?
Our first ancestors did. Adam and Eve used their free will to follow their own desires rather than God’s plans for them. They chose to determine their own way, making themselves their own gods rather than worship the God who created and loved them.
When Adam and Eve chose to sin in the garden, they experienced guilt and shame for the first time. They ran away and hid from God. Their new home was a ‘cave’ of isolation from Him - a barren place of darkness, frustration, emptiness, hopelessness and fear.
Their choice to sin lost us our garden home.
And what about the descendants of Adam and Eve? What about us? How do we use our free will? Am I satisfied, even more - grateful - for all the Lord has given me, or do I constantly search for more? Am I content to live in the world He’s placed me in or do I try to change it, control the circumstances and people in it to my liking? Do I strive to create my own garden? Desire to live in a garden of my own making? Be my own god?
When I sin, I too feel guilt and shame. I run away and hide in fear from God. I loose my way. I end up living in a cave, alone and separated from Him.
But God’s love for us doesn’t end with our sin or where we end up living as a result of it. Our Father pursues us, no matter where we are living, with His rescue plan to bring us back to the garden - to Him:
He sent His own Son, Jesus - fully God- to leave His home, the Garden of Paradise, to be born in a cave so to identify with us as fully man. He allowed Him to take on our sin, to die for it, so we could be restored and reunited with Him. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,” Romans 8:3.
He gave us clear clear directions home in Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“ John 14:6
He gave us a perfect example of how to follow Him in another garden. In Gethsemane, Jesus submitted to His Father: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. We are to release our own -even good- desires and plans in order to receive God’s best for us.
And He gave us the Holy Spirit as our compass, our guide: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever,” John 14:16
Through our trust in God and His Spirit’s presence in us, we can live everyday life the way we were created to live, giving us a glimpse of what living in our eternal home will be like.
Jesus’ physical life on earth ended in His burial in a cave, but three days later, the cave was empty. He defeated death, rose to victory and returned to His home, the garden of Victory! He offers us His Spirit so that we may follow Him there, not only when our bodies succumb to death, but now, while we live on this earth. Knowing Jesus, loving Jesus and following Jesus, acknowledging Him as our Saviour and Lord is our only hope to finding our way home.
In all this, God doesn’t take our free will away. He provides the path home and leaves the choice to us: a cave, or a garden. Without Him, or in Him.
Where do you live?