Two Gardens

July 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Not only am I super behind on the Sabbath School lessons (I’m just finishing last quarterly’s), but I haven’t posted on this blog in a long while. There are a few reasons for this, one is because I’ve been doing so many things and have been busy (which is probably the lamest excuse of all time since I had time to go on Pinterest all day among other things) and the other is, probably most importantly, I’ve had a bit of a dip in my spiritual life, mainly not studying the Bible or focusing my energy during my devotions. It’s also been tough to put my full trust in Him, tougher than it’s been in the past to be honest.

My last post was in October of last year, and since then, I’ve finished my Junior fall semester, studied abroad in Spain, traveled quite a bit around Europe, and started an internship in Texas. I’ve been moving around a lot, most often by myself. Studying abroad was the first time I’d ever been away from my parents for a long period of time with no way to immediately go back home. I was away from my family, friends, and spiritual community (not necessarily mutually exclusive) in a country where I was speaking a second language and largely by myself. I remember thinking before leaving that going somewhere where there aren’t any distractions and where I’m forced to be introspective would be good for both my spiritual and mental growth. I could have a lot of time to spend time with God and essentially get to know Him better than I did before.

Unfortunately, I was distracted. I had thoughts that I wanted to study more and post, but I only half-finished them. I was also rather lonely. Of course I made friends, in fact my host family and roommate knew about my “church crew” and how I would eat lunch with them every Sabbath or travel with them on random weekends. And don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful, but I still felt spiritually malnourished. During the week since I largely only went on campus for class and then came back home to read, eat, or blog. Loneliness dominated a lot of my time abroad, and I drew back from others, myself, and God. I felt farther and farther away from Him and I didn’t know how to get back.

Even now, I’m still not sure. Thankfully here in Texas, He lead me to an awesome young adult group that meets each week for prayer and generally lifts each other up spiritually. It was honestly a breath of fresh air after essentially walking on my spiritual journey alone and with very little support in Spain. And I’m praying I can keep dedicating each day to learning a little more about Him and taking out things that distract me from that spiritual growth.

But on to the study that I wanted to write about. This was from last lesson from the last quarterly during the week of June 20-27. The whole quarter focused on the book of Luke as well as drawing some clarifications from other Gospels and Christian writers. I actually really enjoyed that quarter, the author asked questions that gave me pause where the reasonings weren’t exactly obvious.

So, two gardens. Both are important in our history; where the inhabitants of the first failed, the occupant of the second triumphed. One witnessed the birth of sin in our world, and the other witnessed the beginnings of the victory over sin. Both occupants were presented the choice to go against God’s will. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were tempted to become like God, to uplift themselves, and they selfishly tried to do so. They were blinded by pride and saw that “the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise”; first Eve was deceived, and then Adam, who was also blinded by his selfish desires (Genesis 3:6). They disobeyed God and sinned, and as we know both from Genesis 2:16-17 and Romans 6:23, sin’s result is death. When Eve ate the fruit, it was Adam’s duty to sacrifice himself for the life of his wife. Instead, he joined her in disobeying God’s word and ate the fruit as well. They both deviated from God’s will and doubted His word and as a result, were separated from Him completely.

Fast forward to the second garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is praying right before His betrayer comes. He knows that what’s coming next is going to be the most difficult ordeal of His life; hours of suffering, mocking, and even further, separation from the Father that He’s walked with His entire life. So He uses these last few moments to connect with His Father, and ask if there is another way to save the human race. With the next few hours on His mind, He seeks the comfort of His friends, but even they have abandoned Him for sleep. So He goes through His agony alone, continuing to connect with and plead with His Father. In the end, He says, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done”; He submits to God’s will, and goes forward with the plan of salvation (Luke 22:42).

There was one main thing I got from this. We need to stay connected to God to resist temptation. And not just in the moment of temptation or trial, but well before. Christ spent those 30+ years before the Garden of Gethsemane communing with God and submitting to His will. It’s not like He lived a life of indifference or rebellion before flipping a switch when it mattered most and then suddenly started paying attention to God’s will. I’m sure if Adam and Eve left that tree completely, remembered God’s words, and didn’t even entertain the serpent, they would have resisted temptation, and who knows where our world would be now. That constant connection is crucial for maintaining and improving our relationship with God, even when we’re alone, away from family, friends, and spiritual community. If we feel spiritually dead at some point in our lives, we should of course look at our current circumstances, but don’t forget what came right before, because that most likely has a greater bearing on where we are spiritually. So as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you“. These little things combined with regular study and regular time with God can keep us connected with Him in those little moments, and those little moments can prepare us for those bigger, tougher moments when we most need it.

I’ll end with one of my favorite hymns, In the Garden. It’s very much a song that’s a prayer and a hope. It’s one that regularly gives me comfort, knowing that I can spend time with God and that He wants to spend time with me.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

(Apologies for the super long post. I just needed to get this off my chest, and I wasn’t going to be able to go to sleep without finishing and posting this first.)

God’s Gift of Marriage

March 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

I previously wrote a post on love, and you can find it here if you want to read it. So naturally, the next thing that stems from love is marriage (“first comes love, then comes marriage”…you know the rhyme).

Almost everyone’s dream is to find that special someone; a person with whom they are connected to intimately, a person who understands them, a person who loves them despite their quirks and annoyances.

I am no different. I desire to love and be loved. I desire to be in a committed relationship. But I also want to do it on God’s timing, and that’s the hardest part. It’s hard to be patient and willing to let God lead you when every part of your mind and body is screaming at you to do this with that person. I know I’ve cried out to God saying, “I can’t! I just can’t be patient anymore!” when I know I should be patient. I’ve gotten frustrated when it seems His plans aren’t working when I want them to. So I remember Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, for it is only with His strength that I can overcome my selfish desires.

But as I keep that in mind, I wanted to study this concept of marriage. For some reason, it seems to become a super important topic once you hit 20 (and I’ll be turning 20 in a month at the time I’m writing this). All of a sudden, the topics of dating and relationships come up a lot. Sure they came up when I was a teenager, but they weren’t as serious, and I’ll admit, I knew very little about love then (then again, it’s not like I know everything about it now). My thoughts on relationships usually didn’t go beyond the first kiss. I saw them as a time of perfect bliss, perpetual romance, and grandiose promises, not as a real lifetime commitment. I had a very idealized view of relationships, and to some degree, I still do, although much less than before. So I figure the best way to study marriage is to go straight to the One who created it.

First, why is there marriage? God created us with a desire for companionship. He says in Genesis, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18 NKJV). We don’t want to be alone, and it’s not good for us to be alone. We naturally want to connect with someone on an intimate level. Of course, God is our first Friend, the One who first loved us, and we should long to have Him as our primary Companion. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to connect with another human. That’s why we have friends, both acquaintances and close friends, that’s why we have husbands and wives. And notice that is God who says that it’s not good that man be alone. It is He who decides when to make a comparable helper for Adam. We don’t see Adam pining for another companion or begging God to make another human being. From the text in Genesis 2, one can infer that Adam was quite content with just being with God. I mean, don’t you think it would be wonderful to interact directly with the One who created you? To daily walk with Him in the rest of His creation? To sit at His feet and listen to His teachings? I’m sure Adam enjoyed those times spent with God, and when the time came, God created a comparable helper for him, Eve, and brought her to Adam. Once they met, they connected and became “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NKJV). God was in every part of their meeting. He orchestrated the first marriage, and I’m sure He saw its goodness and was pleased. Just as God was in Adam and Eve’s relationship, He should be in our relationships. He should be the one initiating it, facilitating it, and completing it.

Now about this “one flesh” concept, yes it hints at the sexual intimacy between Adam and Eve, but it also hints at their unity. Have you ever known someone, whether friend or significant other, who feels like an extension of you? You finish each other’s sentences, your minds think alike, people can’t picture one of you without the other. This aspect of a relationship is, I would say, more important than the sexual relationship. We tend to focus on the fact that once we get married, then we can have sex, as if that’s the end goal of marriage. But it’s not. Yes, it’s a gift that God gave us, but it is not the end-all-be-all of relationships. The more important thing is unity, being so connected with someone that it’s like you’re one person.

What I found most interesting about marriage is that it’s often depicted as an analogy to God’s relationship with His church. For that reason, we should glorify God in how we view marriage and relationships. It is through understanding marriage that one can understand how God loves His church. Then, we can accurately portray that love to those who may not know of it. Many times throughout the Bible, marital language is used to describe God’s relationship with His church. In John 14:1-4, Christ speaks to His disciples on how He will prepare a place for us and then come again to receive us to Himself; “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4 NKJV). During that time, when a young man and young woman were to be married, the bridegroom would build a dwelling for him and his bride. It would be a time of anticipation for the bride, for when he was finished, the bridegroom would bring her to their dwelling and they would then be married and live together. Just as a bridegroom prepares and builds a house for his betrothed, Christ is preparing heaven for His church. And as a church, we are to be preparing ourselves and waiting in anticipation for His coming. Some of the parables that Jesus tells to describe the kingdom of God use marital analogies. There is the Parable of the Ten Virgins and The Wedding Supper to name two, and each one shows that His coming for us is exciting and celebratory.

In Revelation, Christ’s coming for His church is again likened to marriage; “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”” (Revelation 19:6-9 NKJV). When God calls us to His kingdom, we will be prepared and adorned beautifully when we meet our Savior. We will take part in the marriage feast and live forever with our God.

When we take part in marriage as God ordained, we show those around us how God loves us. When husbands and wives love each other unconditionally, they reflect God’s matchless love for us. Have you ever just wanted to shower your love on someone else for no other reason but to show them that you love them? Or just to see them smile? God loves us and He wants to shower His blessings on us. He wants to give us His best at the best time much in the same way we want to give gifts to those that we love.

Now, marriage is wonderful, something that we all long for. And obviously, God created it and bestowed His blessing on it. But a mistake that many of us make, myself included, is that we pine for it without enjoying our singleness. We put our desire for marriage above our desire to commune with God. Marriage was created because it was not good for man to be alone, but remember that in his single life, Adam communed with God. I don’t think he was lonely at all, for he was in the presence of His Creator. When we are single we can fully bask in the presence of our creator without worrying about whether he or she likes me or what he or she meant by such and such statement. Paul, who was single by the way, says in 1 Corinthians 7, “He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife…The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.” It is while being single that you can cultivate your relationship with God. All of your focus will be on doing His work and on pleasing Him. Now this does not mean that once you say “I do”, all desire to do God’s work goes out the window. For those who are married, even as you seek to please your spouse and help him or her grow, seek all the more to please God in your actions. For those who are single (or dating), remember to keep developing your relationship with God for He will strengthen your character and prepare you, should it be in His will, for the one whom you’ll spend your life with. I came across a quote on the internet that said, “When you love God first, you love each other better.” Loving God comes first. And through your relationship with Him, you can love someone else just as He loves us and reflect His relationship with us.

What have I, and hopefully you, learned about marriage now? It’s sacred, blessed by God, and a gift. It’s a beautiful relationship that focuses on unity between man and woman; it is a unity so strong that they become one flesh. Further evidence to its sacredness is the fact that it is used to describe God’s love for the church. So marriage is an earthly representation of the love of God. And because it represents so high a concept, it is something that should not be taken lightly or haphazardly. It is one of the ways in which others can see the love of their Heavenly Father. Although marriage was given by God, it should not take the place of God. Just as Adam spent his time with His Creator when he was single, we should as well. And don’t let that communion die out once you do have a significant other. Always remember who your First Love is.

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