In the beginning there was the garden.
I imagine fig trees, berry bushes, and hummingbirds. Water flows between glistening rocks painted different shades of blue and grey. The water is clean and safe to drink straight from the river out of the palm of my hand. The smell of honeysuckles and crisp mountain air feels minty in my mouth. My bare feet press against soft grass, and a butterfly lands on my face, tickling my nose.
In the distance, I hear a faint whisper, “Anything. You can have anything at all. Enjoy it. Breathe it in deep. Build this land and take care of it. It’s for you. Dwell and rest and play. Just one thing, you see that tree over there, the one with the low hanging fruit? That fruit you cannot touch. Trust me. It’s for your own good. But all the rest is yours.”
Can I be honest here and lay all the striving down?
I would have eaten the fruit too.
Even more, I might have grabbed it all on my own without the help of a wicked snake. I know this because I am hardwired for restlessness and discontent. I often believe the grass might actually be greener. And I want more— more passion, success, and adventure. More friendship, travel, and good food around the table.
I always want to be writing a really good story.
These emotions were most heavy in my early twenties, I can still remember crying in the bathroom at my job in the city. I wanted to be in Africa, not an office. I’d shake my fists at God, feeling frustrated He hadn’t called me to “bigger and more important” things.
As I’ve gotten older and stood in one place longer than a year, my roots have grown deeper. I’ve learned the beauty in staying. These roots keep me tethered, tied to something much sturdier than my wandering heart. And I’m reminded that while God cares about all of it, my interests and dreams, the soup I serve and words I write, He doesn’t love me anymore because of it.
I’m enough, just as I am, with or without making a single piece of art again.
On my best days I believe all of this and yet every so often, a storm rolls in, and a sharp pain hits my soul and I start to hear the word— more. There has to be more. God’s holding out on me. I have to work harder to find it.
I don’t invite these thoughts, but they pull up a seat to the table anyway.
For me, grabbing the low hanging fruit looks like reaching for my phone when I should be reaching for my husband’s hand. It’s spending my margin scrolling, peering into the lives of people I don’t know, more than being an active participant of my own. And then it’s measuring my life, all of my choices and beliefs up against tiny curated squares. Thinking I’ve got it all wrong and missed the mark. That I’m not living my best, most exciting life.
There has to be more.
It’s assuming that the same Spirit used to cast out demons and heal the sick is only given to the lucky few, that it could never live in me. It’s believing we live in our little town and street by accident rather than trusting it’s on purpose.
It’s answering with all the jobs I used to have when asked “What do you do?” rather than boldly stating the truth— I stay home and write.
We all have fruit dangling within view. It’s rarely rotten or spoiled, often it looks shiny and glamorous.
We wouldn’t be tempted if it wasn’t beautiful.
What if instead of hiding behind leaves we called it out into the light?
The moment I pull comparison, restlessness, doubt, and jealousy out from under a rock I begin to see that the garden I described above is actually right where I am. My eyes are opened. God knocks the wind right out of me. He cups my face in His hands to say— Look. Look at all I’ve offered. Now join me in making it even more beautiful.
My neighborhood becomes my Eden.
There might not be fruit trees or berry bushes, but the large green space is a refuge and gathering place. Our modern day marketplace where strangers meet. The playground, with two rusty old swings, is an escape and moment of freedom for a little girl wearing pigtails. The old shrub outside our window, the one that’s overgrown and surrounded by weeds, is a hiding place for imagination and play. Our porch is more than wood and chipped paint, it’s a safe haven, a glass of wine and prayer with a friend who has an upcoming court date.
I don’t always see my life this way. It’s much easier to crave more; culture lends itself to this. My heart lends itself to this. It’s easier to wake up and feel confused, wondering how we got here in the first place, mourn what isn’t rather than celebrate what is. But I have to believe there’s another way. That when I’m done shaking my fists and demanding answers for why life hasn’t gone quite how I planned, God meets me there. He meets me on our porch and around the table, reminding me that this simple life is actually chock full of meaning, when I dare to see it.
We find we aren’t missing out, we didn’t miss the turn, from the very beginning He had us right where He wanted us, smack dab in the middle of it all— beauty and mess, pain and joy.
He placed us in our Eden, with the body and spirit to help restore it.