When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. Genesis 3:6
At 15 my favorite store in Woodfield Mall sold all sorts of posters and books and audio programs for personal development. Not too typical for a high school Sophomore. I clearly remember begging my mom to buy me a Dennis Waitley cassette tape called “The Psychology of Winning” so I could listen on my Sony Walkman. She reluctantly gave in and I listened to it dozens of times.
I have seen the legendary Zig Ziglar, the master Tony Robbins and a dozen Christian preachers like Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, James Dobson and James MacDonald among others. I have hundreds of non-fiction books on shelves strewn throughout my house. I’ve been writing goals for years.
And yet I still ended up an alcoholic. I still have struggled with identifying my feelings. I still walked away from God for over a decade. I still have had to walk the path of pain in order to awaken to God’s love. Despite the fact that I was given basically every advantage in life…a solid family, a childhood faith, good food and education.
One has to ask the question…WHY?
In the Garden of Eden, Eve had it all too. Her needs were met. She had a companion in Adam. She was living in paradise. What would the temptation be, I’ve always wondered, to that ONE apple, when you have everything else?
I believe somewhere in us God planted the seed of freedom and the desire to know ourselves, even if it costs us everything. You see Eve didn’t understand pain. She had no reference for it. Because it’s only in contrast that we can experience pleasure. She didn’t know how it could feel to experience distance from God because she always had His presence. She couldn’t possibly have understood hurt and pain when all she had was love and joy…she only had one side of the earthly experience.
She was like me. She wanted more wisdom. So she ate. And her eyes were opened. And she opened the door to the full of human experience. I don’t really think it was an accident. I don’t fault her for ‘listening to the serpent’. She was just curious. As are we all. Curious to understand ourselves better. Curious to feel the good and the bad. Curious to peek behind the curtain and see what we’re missing and why we feel as we do.
And God allows it. That is love.
The fact that we have the freedom to run away and the freedom to run home and still be accepted allows us to grow without fear of ultimate rejection. It provides the safety net for growing. We have the freedom to experience the shit so that we can enjoy the love.
The light is only bright relative to its surroundings. A candlestick in the dark seems bright and would be unnoticed in a sun-filled room. So it is in life. The more pain. The more pleasure.
In the book Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza tells the story of her experience surviving the Rwandan genocide. A Christain who was hidden in the small bathroom of a pastor with eight other women for months, she could have gotten bitter when it was finally over and she emerged weighing only 60 lbs and all of her family slaughtered. But she drew closer to God and wrote a book that has impacted the lives of thousands of people.
So the point I think I’m trying to make is that we can appreciate the good in our lives only in proportion to the amount of pain and suffering we have experienced. I’m grateful now for all the storms I’ve faced both internally and externally because they have revealed to me where I still have work to do and they have given me a touchstone to share hope and faith with you.
And here’s one final thought. When Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened they were forced to leave their garden of safety. They may have seemingly been cursed but I believe they were blessed. Who wants to live a life with no conflicts? No challenges? No opportunities for growth? Wouldn’t that be a bit boring?
God allowed their eyes to be opened and their earthly experience to be enriched by including the polarities of good and evil. With that choice, their need for God’s love to survive in this world grew too. Isn’t it true that often the pain is what draws us back to Him?
Once you gain self-knowledge you also will be forced to travel to a new destination. Just as the garden was guarded with an angel and a flaming sword, you have exited your former way of thinking and you can’t go back. Rely on God. Move forward. Appreciate the good and the bad. Embrace the full of human experience. I am trying too…