I was going to go with the typical "One Word" tag for this entry, but the play on the song title (and knowing that at least five of you are singing or humming the song now; you're welcome, by the way) was just too tempting. For record though, let's subtitle this "One Word 2011.4" for continuity's sake.
I've noticed that I cycle through a number of repetitive themes in my writings. I'd like to think that this is more a sign of areas I am passionate about and subjects God has drawn to my heart as opposed to either a lack of creativity or feeling "safe" in writing about them. After I stopped and thought about it for a few minutes, I realized that many of them are tied into subjects that fall within the purview of my "former life" working in higher education: Diversity. Leadership. And the one that was hammered into my soul throughout my tenure in residence life: Community.
And this goes straight to my One Word for 2011: shalam. To be safe or complete. As a term and message, the word seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world.
A few months back, God kept me stuck in the first three chapters of Genesis. What started as yet another attempt to read through the Bible from Genesis to Maps wound up becoming an in-depth study on creation, the fall, and what that means today. And - of course - as these things go, it also meant that intentionally reading a passage that I thought I knew by heart yielded quite a few new revelations.
So, in honor of this past Earth Day, let's talk about trees.
In the creation story, only two trees are mentioned by name: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Since all was perfect in Eden, I presume that neither of these trees produced pollen or sap to muck up Adam or Eve's sinuses. However, it is stated clearly that both trees produced fruit.
As all of God's creations who are working in His favor are supposed to.
It is also stated that both of these trees were placed in the center of the Garden. Knowledge. Life. Both in the center of creation. While it's never stated what the size or shape of the Garden actually was or where Adam and Eve hung out in the Garden on a daily basis, we know they had free reign to roam wherever they wished. This means that when tempted, Eve (and conversely, Adam) had to intentionally journey to the center of the Garden.
We can be tempted on and in all manner of things, but to give in requires effort.
It wasn't until after the fall that God set up boundaries to the Garden. Yes, there were rules to living in the community (specifically: "Hey, see that tree? Yeah, that one. Don't. Just don't.") but other than that? Complete freedom. And while some might argue that God showed no mercy in casting out Adam and Eve, He did not do so in order to separate Himself from us.
I find it interesting that after they sinned and ate of the fruit, Adam and Eve chose to cover their loins. They went for where they thought they were the most vulnerable. They first hid their shame from one another, and then tried to hide it from God. Adam even tells God he isn't hiding because of his disobedience and out of fear of the repercussions of disobeying God, but because he was naked.
Shame led him to try and hide. I really wish that I couldn't sympathize with that as much as I do.
In Genesis 3:23, God sent Adam out to cultivate the ground. The very same ground he was created from. This was his curse: to work by the sweat of his brow and try to eek out an existence to see if he could reclaim that which was once freely given.
And if that's not a clear parallel for grace versus works, I'm not sure if one exists.