Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden — except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
It’s an interesting experience being married to someone who is a pastor in their own right. Especially when she may well be a better one than you.
So there we were late Easter Monday night, driving back down from Perth after doing the whole family thing as I’m sure many of you all were doing over the past weekend. Part of our day however had been the unexpected pleasure of talking to some close friends.
Sure enough, these folks (like many others you chat to when you’re in the youth ministry space) are keen to see their 17 year old, get motivated and get on with,…. I don’t know, discovering the cure for cancer or something. You know what I’m talking about, it’s what my folks had to go thru when I graduated (by the skin of my teeth) from high school with an A.T.A.R. (in those days T.E.E.) score of way, way less than I would need to do anything at university. I was as unmotivated to ‘seize the day’ as my dog is to be put outside. Ever.
So naturally Alycia and I are having the conversation about how people need to just let kids ‘find their passion’ and how our entire education system needs to seriously calm the heck down when it comes to telling kids all sorts of crap like; ‘if you don;t do this you’ll have to endure that,’ nonsense.
Being male, I particularly enjoy sounding clever in conversations. So I pulled out one of my tried and tested pastoral chestnuts, which although Alycia has totally heard before, I thought just maybe she might appreciate the full gravitas of my insight more than ever, given the context of the conversation. The said chestnut goes like so:
“It’s so important that people appreciate one of the major statements God is making in Genesis 3 about what it means to be ‘in the will of God.’ God’s will is not a desert, it’s a garden. There’s only one option outside the garden; outside God’s will: exile. But in God’s will, (in the garden) there’s thousands of options. God says ‘eat from anything but that’ NOT ‘eat from nothing only this,’ which he totally could have done.“
In short, there’s lot’s of different options, within God’s will. Bizarrely, so many people seem to think that ‘God’s best’ for them = one thing only. I don’t know where we got that from but it wasn’t the Bible. We see that God’s best, even in a pre-fall atmosphere includes heaps of options and the idea of exploration and discovery.
There’s lots of different fruits to taste, just do it all with the right attitude. What’s that attitude? This: ‘I’m just going to trust God about the one thing he’s told me not to do.’ If that’s all honky dory, then try as many different fruits as you like.
It was in this moment as we were using the picture of different fruits as an analogy for different career paths and activities that Alycia said something that made me feel immediately outclassed in every single way:
“….and even when you do take a bite of a fruit you don’t like and throw it away, God has already seen to it that a seed is planted and therefore nothing, not one experience is wasted.”
Of course, fruit is ultimately a container for the seed of a plant that also has moisture and nutrients to sustain the seed until it germinates. Even an apple core that falls on the right soil has the opportunity to one day become an apple tree bearing much fruit for others to eat and have their fill.
As I sat there only just remembering to close my mouth before I dribbled on my seatbelt, I realized she was on to something enormous.
She’s saying that there is as much growth that comes from the things we have a crack at for only a time and may even fail with, as there is from that which we do brilliantly for years on end. Within God’s will, within the garden, nothing is wasted.
Society says: screw this up and you’re stuffed. God says trust me in the successes and the failures and produce a harvest bigger than your wildest dreams.
So seriously, chill out.
We panic because we’ve made the story all about us.
Which leads me to conclude that there really is only one thing that matters seek God and try every option, whilst enjoying his presence.
What if we said this to young people in churches rather than “do you know what you want to do after yr12?”
Imagine the difference we’d make to a generation.