by Fr Gabriel-Allan Boyd
In the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, they’ve been placed in a beautiful garden paradise, which God has created to provide for their every need. Their relationship of mutual trust with God is delightful, even though He’s given them the magnificent task of caring for His paradise. As they cultivate this garden, however, God has compassionately warned them that there’s a particular tree, which, if its fruit is eaten, will bring ruin upon their lives. Well, the evil-one comes along and very enticingly convinces these two that, in spite of the illusion of care that God has shown for them in this paradise…God’s real motive was to keep them from achieving their true potential, which could only be done on their own, apart from God. So, the evil-one convinces them to ignore God’s advice and explore life as masters of their own destiny. As the story goes, after Adam eats from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—exactly what God warned him not to—his life immediately begins to take on a sad distortion.
After Adam’s misuse of this first tree, he discovers that his once, wholesome relationship with God, has now become preoccupied with other distractions. Adam has suddenly developed a personal-inferiority-complex, becoming quite self-absorbed. So, when Adam hears the footsteps of God walking in the garden, he does something he’s never done before. He hides behind a tree—from the misuse of one tree to the misuse of another. Adam, who has begun detaching himself from the Source-of-Life to approach life on his own terms, has now begun to wither like an Autumn-leaf getting ready to depart from its source of life. From this perspective, it gives us even more to reflect upon when we refer to this event in the life of Adam & Eve as, “The Fall.” It’s not about the breaking of one of God’s laws, so much as it’s about breaking ourselves off from the One through whom we get our being.
This is where God does something remarkable. God who created all, and sees all, and knows all, asks Adam a stirring question, “Adam, where are you?” Now, if God sees all, why would He ask Adam where he is? Are they playing hide and seek? Has The Fall caused God to suddenly lose the ability to see all things? No, of course not. It’s because God, our Father, out of parental concern, wants Adam to take a good, hard look at what he’s gotten himself into. “Where are you now.” It’s God’s way of saying, “Adam, remember last week, when I came sauntering here and you ran up to embrace Me, and we walked and talked about all of the wonderful things going on in the garden? Remember how close we were to each other then, how much we enjoyed being in each other’s company? Remember how you felt no embarrassment with Me—no need to feel defenselessness? Remember how alive you were as we shared our time together? Well, take a look at the state you’re in now. Is it anything like what we had before? What’s different about it? How can you turn this situation back around?” God’s question is a bit like Dr. Phil’s, “How’s that working for you?” And this is a good question for us to ponder, regarding all of the things that we allow to distract and draw us away from our relationship with God. At some point in our life we need to realize that perhaps the way we’ve been doing things isn’t getting us the results we thought it would. It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, but expecting different results. Even the habit of doing different things, but similarly independent of God will get us the same withering, insane results. Wouldn’t you rather have sanity in your life?
Of course, there are times when we experience a deep satisfaction in Christ’s love. But then there’s the norm… when we simply go through the motions to get through another week. The various cares of life creep in, demanding that we offer our devotion to them instead of serving Christ in everything we do. While we try our best to survive, our lives begin to wither and dry out. Why? Because we were created to be deeply rooted in God…to live, eat and breathe so that everything in life is done as an offering of worship to Him. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). Is everything you do in life deeply rooted in Christ…meant to serve God’s will in thankfulness to Him? Is that how you approach life right now? No? Has it instead become preoccupied with other distractions? Well, how’s that working for you? Where are you now?
How can we renew our passion for Christ—not just for our own sake, but also for the sake of offering worship to Him? How can we deepen our roots so that when the other distractions come along, we don’t become so preoccupied with them that we too begin to wither and fall?
An old farmer and his beloved grandson were talking about their family’s crop of corn one day.
The boy was excitedly chattering about this year’s crop and how quickly it had come to tower over everything else on the farm with the constant rains they’d been having.
But the grandfather warned the boy saying: “That glut of rain we’ve had makes our crops especially vulnerable. Now, even the smallest drought…just a little hot, dry spell could kill off our entire crop.”
“But Grandpa” the boy countered, “look how tall and strong and green it all looks. It looks healthy enough to survive any drought now!”
The old grandfather explained, that while very frequent and abundant rains may look like a benefit…the over-watered plants don’t have to push their roots very deep into the soil searching for water. Since the roots remain shallow, a drought, or even a strong wind would find the plants unprepared and quickly kill them.
Some of us receive frequent and abundant “rains” of what we consider to be life’s blessings. Everything is doing fine and so we become self-satisfied. We find no reason to sink our roots more deeply into God, because life seems to be going good for us on our own. We feel like we’ve got things all under control. Yet when a period of drought…of stresses and great difficulties enter our lives, we often wither further away from God. We don’t have the depth to deal with the difficulties that life can throw at us. The problem is that our roots have never pushed much below a superficial relationship with God.
Only those roots that have grown deep into our Lord Jesus Christ will help us endure times of drought in our lives. So how do we prepare for those times of drought…for those times of hardship and msfortune? It happens only through struggle…pushing through to make God first in our lives, even when (especially when) we’d rather satisfy some other personal desire. Make the “Jesus Prayer” or, “The Prayer of the Heart”—“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me…” a part of your every breath, struggling to make prayer fill every part of your life, asking for God’s mercy for yourself, and for everyone else you encounter. Struggle to attend Church regularly and on time…and sink your roots deeply…into all of liturgical life of the Church—purposefully engaging the words of the hymns and prayers. Put some daily effort into meditating upon a bit of the scriptures. As God has rained down much of His blessings on you …allow yourself not to be overwatered with them…realize that they’re not all meant for you alone…choose the asceticism of fasting, and stretching your budget to give a good portion of those blessings to the poor, and give generously to the Church without expecting a personal agenda to be fulfilled…learning to live selflessly. In these ways you begin growing into His likeness…becoming one with Him in His ministry here on earth. Then when those scorching stresses and great misfortunes arrive (and we all get them at one point or another), our deep roots will keep us from withering away in the shallowness of self-absorption…so that someday we may bear forth a bumper crop of Christ’s love into the world.