“The Lord God planted a garden . . .” (Genesis 2:8).
IN ALL THE VARIOUS VERSIONS OF OUR LONGINGS, WE ARE BASICALLY LONGING FOR A LIFE LIKE THE ONE THAT EXISTED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD. In the Garden of Eden every heart was whole, and whenever our hearts are broken today, we wistfully imagine what it must have been like to be Adam or Eve, before the unhappy times came. We wish we could have something like that.
It is an interesting fact that nearly every culture in the world has some story or legend of a lost paradise. As with similar stories of a worldwide flood, the easiest way to explain the prevalence of such stories in so many cultures is to suppose that the events actually happened. The Garden of Eden is not a myth! To this day, the human race carries within its memory echoes of a time when no sin had yet been committed and everything was in perfect balance.
But think of what Eden would have been like! To say that Adam and Eve were perfectly happy is just the beginning. Their happiness was the result of every aspect of God’s creation being just what it was meant to be, not only in itself but also in its relationship to everything else. There were no imbalances and no gaps or deficiencies. An “unfulfilled need” had not yet been heard of.
Needless to say, the highest and best part of the goodness of Eden would have been the perfect relationship of everything to God. Augustine of Hippo once defined heaven as “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.” Wouldn’t that have been what Eden was? Nothing fractured or marred or out of kilter, but everything filling its precisely intended role in the creation — and all rightly related to the Creator.
Now here is the hope of the gospel of Christ: God has made it possible for us to regain the paradise that was lost — and more. The emptiness of our hearts is only temporary. Ahead of us, in Christ, is the kind of world that we were made for. In heaven, our inner hearts and our outward habitation will fit together perfectly. Never again will a broken world leave us empty or deny us joy. Our Father will be there, and for the first time since Eden, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve will know what “home” means.
“It is not darkness you are going to, for God is light. It is not lonely, for Christ is with you. It is not unknown country, for Christ is there” (Charles Kingsley).