Eden in the Wilderness

“Who do I have in Heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You… as for me, God’s presence is my good”

– Psalm 73:25,28


In a garden courtyard in the alleyway behind my flat I feel safe, protected, shielded… perhaps the best word is hidden. I sit with my prayer journal open, untouchable and secure. The words written on the pages in the presence of God cannot be read by evil. Darkness has no place, does not know what we speak and write about… it is between myself and the Lord alone.

And then I think of Jesus in another garden, and how it was His agony that provided me the access to God I so freely enjoy. He suffered in a garden under the weight of being vulnerable, unprotected, exposed, and tormented by just the thought of going without His Father’s presence, a presence in which I sit. He was met by evil and darkness, not in the form of a serpent, but a friend who betrayed Him. But this Second Adam did what the first could not. He did not yield, did not surrender, did not doubt or give in or walk by sight. Although He staggered and sweat drops of blood, He did not fall or falter. His agony in the garden provided my entryway, so nearly 2,000 years later I could sit quietly in another garden, hidden in Him, protected, safe, unhindered, in serenity; a taste of Eden in the wilderness and fallenness of this world, this life, this city… His presence: the most treasured thing I possess.

Who do I have in Heaven but Him? Sure, I have relatives and countless believers, but the treasure is Him. And I desire nothing in this world but Him. His presence alone is my good. He always lives to make intercession for me. He entered one garden so I could bask in the peace and contentment of another. His very purpose of coming near, of His omnipotence lowered to a mere baby in a manager, was to bridge the divide, remove the chasm of sin between us and Him, not to accomplish anything for Himself. Indeed, His cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both. It’s the gateway we enter into oneness with Him, but not one we pass on through, but one where we stay, camp out, and abide under and in.

Did He not choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? In Him, I lost myself to find myself. I have nothing, really, but I possess everything. In Jesus, the mystery is revealed, we know the name of our deliverer, we live on this side of the cross, the event that literally divided time in half. There I sit in my garden courtyard, communing with Him in spirit and truth, with no barrier in the way, no sacrifice needed, nothing hindering our fellowship, because Jesus did what we could not do and became who we could never become. He became what we are so that He might make us what He is. In Him, we live and move, and have our being.

In His presence I have all that I need and I am whole. I am favored, treasured, and loved. I have found the one my soul cherishes, loves, and desires. I have His kindness, His love, His gentleness, acceptance, compassion, joy, and laughter. I am cared for, desires, wanted, delighted in and resting securely in who I am in Him. All things are of Him and work together for good. Though He suffered in His garden of humility, He was raised in authority to reign by love. It was there in that garden that He identified with me and my imperfection, where He began to take on Himself the weight of that divide between God and humanity that began in another garden. In that garden, He clothed nakedness and shame with the skin of an animal. In this garden, He clothed the nakedness and shame with Himself. By this will we have been made whole through the offering of His body, God in the flesh, the untainted One, once and for all.

Because of this, I sit with my prayer journal in the garden behind my flat, approaching His throne and sanctuary boldly by the drops of blood Jesus sweat in the other garden, so I could enjoy this new life, this second life within my life, and delight in the privilege of keeping my eyes on Him, the Author and Perfecter of the faith He gave to me, for the joy that lay before Him, tolerated the torment of the garden, endured the pain of crucifixion, despised its shame, and finished the work forever. No more sacrifices. No more rituals. No more procedures to cleanse iniquity and enter His presence. All of those were without real power, real cleansing, and real access, and existed merely as a symbol to point to what would be His final and finished work. Only divine intervention could bridge the chasm, and that intervention came when the infinite omnipotent creator lowered Himself and intervened in humanity, becoming a baby, growing up into a man, and turning Adam’s fall into an ascension.

I think about all of this in my garden. The Saturday between Friday, the day He bridged the chasm between mankind and Himself, and Sunday, the day He swallowed and defeated death, is the day we now live in. This is the age between Gethsemane and the New Eden, the time between His first coming and His second. We live in the in-between of great pain and great hope. Just like that Saturday, when silence appeared to be His absence, He was at work and in control. It was not loud or flashy, it never is, that is not His character. He opposes the proud and reveals Himself to the humble. Sunday was coming. And when this age of Saturday passes and the age of Sunday comes, when we see Him we will be like Him. This garden I sit in, in His mobile presence in which I can access at any time, in any place, is only a small taste, a tiny morsel, a minute little Eden in the wilderness and fallenness of this world. And if it tastes this good, what must the fullness taste like? For now, it’s seeing through a glass dimly, but then it will be face to face.

Peter and John ran to an empty tomb, but at that particular moment, their faith was not fully formed. They were running in the right direction, but the Son of God had not yet risen in them… the life of the risen Christ did not yet dominate them.

“I still have many things to say to you,” Jesus said. “But you cannot bear them now.” After He washed the disciples feet, He told them that they did not understand what He was doing, but soon they would.

He knows our capacity, He meets us where we’re at, and He is a gentle and good shepherd who guides us with long-suffering and patience. He does not force Himself upon us, but those who are His He protects, guides, chastens, and keeps. He keeps calling out, calling towards Him, drawing near, and waits lovingly for us to reciprocate. Three years ago, when I moved to this city, I thought I was moving for my future, for my career. Little did I know that God was orchestrating the pieces to move me here for none of that, but to lose the whole ‘my‘; to die to self, to live unto Him, and to be a part of church community and Bible College and truly know and walk with Him and yield to Him and lose my life to gain it. I only tasted this in bits and pieces before, and now it’s become life: true and abundant. I can’t take credit for any of it, I can boast in none of it, for it was somehow lavished on me by His grace alone, a grace that’s origins are traced back to His garden of torment, and even further, to Eden, when He set into motion a plan to turn a fall into an ascension, and all the way back then, even thought of me.

Now, His words become so clear that I am amazed I did not grasp them before. But I, like the disciples, were not able to understand them because I had not yet developed the proper spiritual condition to deal with them. He had many things to say to me, but I could not bear them yet. While He was busy washing my feet as I muddied them in my walk of life in my own pursuits and aspirations that did not involve Him, I did not yet fully understand what He was doing. My insensible thinking ended immediately once His resurrection life had its way with me. And like the wind, we cannot predict how, when, or try to conjure it up.

When I first met Him as a young boy, I was enthralled and drawn to Him. The greatest treasure had been found. I was “already clean” having received His risen life; adopted as His son. He had come for me, like He came for His disciples, but it was the beginning of a journey; one if I ‘endured to the end’ I would see Him, know Him, understand Him more and more. At that early age, I was exhilarated by a mountaintop experience, but after a while, the valleys, cares, worries, pleasures, and temptations of the world tried to snatch this treasure from me. His Spirit in me pushed me to go all-in, and there was always a tug-of-war going on between truth and lies. But Jesus said to His Father, “I have not lost a single one of those whom You gave Me.” His resurrection was not yet formed and evident in me, but it was forming, slowly and subtly in the background, because He is faithful, and finishes what He starts. What was conceived as a young boy who first encountered Him, would grow up to maturity, and continue to do so.

Eventually, in His timing, the Resurrected Lord appeared in a garden where He was buried, and also to me in my own life. Through the pages of the journal and our communication with one another, He visited me in my own garden, and peeled back yet another layer of Himself to me. Throughout my journey with Him, His word prompted me to hope, to seek, and run in the direction of His love, even with doubts, questions, uncertainties, disappointments, despair, anxiety, fears, apprehension… because it wasn’t me running, but His Spirit in me, working His very nature into me. He is always found when sought with a whole heart, one that’s humbled and contrite. And He is the one who gives us that new heart.

He is unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. Yet He is still kind, gentle, meek, quiet, patient, loving, compassionate, gracious, full of mercy and long-suffering. Oswald Chambers writes that the one essential element in all of His teaching about following Him is abandon: no calculation, no trace of self-interest. For so long there was no true abandonment, but rather a half-hearted grip on my life. I say half-hearted, because my heart was truly with the One I love, Jesus, but like Lot’s wife, I still looked back at Sodom, at all He was leading me away from by the power of His Spirit in me alone… I calculated and held self-interests, goals, ambitions, desires, struggles, and He kept saying, “Look at Me, lose yourself to find yourself. Follow Me.”

And there I found myself in Him, in a mobile Eden, a garden behind my apartment, in His presence, demoted, having nothing, but possessing everything. Hidden in Him: the treasure worth laying everything down for.

disciple | impractical daydreamer | creative writer | photographer

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