I struggle with forward motion. I struggle with forward motion. We all struggle with forward motion.(Admittedly, this is not the best example of their inspired lyrics. For a better example, click here.)
I am disappointed when even people I consider forward thinkers get stuck in the past. I am even more disappointed by how often this happens. My circle of friends are the type of people who may be most prone to stuck thinking because many of us fall close to that hippie-tree-hugger-are-you-going-to-recycle-that-eat-whole-wheat-and-DIY line. I encounter this phenomenon most in conversation about heaven, or what paradise means, or what the "end times" will be like. As the conversation progresses, someone inevitably suggests something like, "We should all go back to the Garden of Eden." I sigh inwardly.
The premise is good. The Garden of Eden was paradise. But was it really perfect as this suggestion implies? I don't think so. In the New Testament, the word often translated as "perfect" can also mean "complete." This really messes with our concept of perfection. The word "perfect" is more commonly associated with the idea of flawlessness than completion or wholeness.
"And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:4 NIV)
The Garden of Eden certainly seems to have been flawless, at least for a time. But it does not fulfill the Biblical definition of perfection - completeness. The Garden of Eden was the beginning, but I don't believe the Garden was Plan A. That would make Jesus Plan B. I think Jesus was always God's only plan.
Jesus is the Lamb slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8 NIV). The Garden of Eden was far from complete without the fulfillment of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Though Adam and Eve walked and talked with God, they were like children with little understanding of the peace and closeness they were truly experiencing.** But Time has made the sons of God aware of both peace and unrest, and what feelings of closeness and separation are. How much deeper (more meaningful) is the rest of a warrior after a fight than a child's, who has never experienced strife?
Instead of looking back to find paradise, I would rather look forward. The Garden of Eden is where we started, but look how far the human race has come since then. Some of it has been wonderful, some of it terrible. But aren't we more complete as a whole than we were at the beginning of time? How much more the kingdom of God which is in us and around us, and will then be unveiled? Children know how to trust and rest in God because they have no reason not to. But an aged warrior knows a different rest, one he has tested, found good, and chosen.
**[On Children: Children understand more about God and His kingdom than we think. I give them credit! But it is true that they do not have as much experiential knowledge as an adult. Most have not experienced as many trials, temptations, sorrows, etc. and therefore don't have the same understanding of ease, victory, and joy.]
[There is more to this vein of thought than I've been able to express here that I will develop in future posts.]