I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the late 1960’s right now. If you’re old enough to remember, protests, riots and cities burning are certainly familiar. 1967 began with the “summer of love” but that soon turned into riots and chaos in 1968. That began after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I wrote about that courageous man of faith yesterday.
Something I recall from those days is the music. I love music, so many different types, but I was always listening to a radio as a kid because my mother loved music, too. And so did my older sisters. There was a lot of Top 40 stuff playing in our house when my mom wasn’t listening to jazz albums of the likes of Julie Christie and Ella Fitzgerald. Mom did an awesome Sarah Vaughan impression that I tried for years to emulate. Never got it down as well as she did.
One particular song that I liked was called Woodstock. Written by Joni Mitchell, it includes the lyric, “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” The song came out in 1970, inspired by the New York event the year before; I turned 9 years old that fall. Now, 50 years later, I can understand those words and see the glaring fallacy in them.
The garden is the Garden of Eden, of course, where Adam and Eve dwelt for a time. The Lord God, Creator of the Universe, banished them from the garden for their transgression of desiring to be “like God.” It’s not something anyone should dare attempt; we should never think it remotely possible because, of course it isn’t. We can’t love as much, know as much, create as much or in the same fashion, as God. We have some capacity to love, some capacity to learn and gain wisdom up to a point, we can create with our imaginations and ingenuity. But we can’t love anyone into being from nothing; we can’t create a universe out of thin air. We can never know or be wise enough to understand everything. Never. Only God can. And so, to protect humanity, God gives Adam and Eve one rule. Just one: Do not eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the amazingly fertile Garden. But despite God’s generosity and His trust in those to whom He bestows free will, He loves them so much, those 2 decide all that God’s given them is not enough. They are warned that to eat the fruit of this tree will result in death. A lie from the serpent, that they will NOT die is believed. Why someone would believe a creature instead the Creator is beyond me. But such is the pride and obtuseness of human beings sometimes.
Adam & Eve decide they want to be “like God.” But, oh, how much like Him they already were, though the didn’t realize it. Man and woman, all of humanity, is made in the image and likeness of God. Limited though we are in the ways described above, those things also make us more like God than any other creature on earth (in the Garden).
Trying to “get ourselves back to the garden” will always be a mistake. Only God can put us in the garden; only God can kick us out. We actually separate ourselves from God through sin. Only God can forgive us and send His Son to die for us and wait expectantly for us to seek that forgiveness and await our turn to be welcomed back into the Garden. The wonderful thing is that the Father, Creator God, is not just waiting for us; He’ll run toward us when He sees us returning! He’ll rejoice at our homecoming! He has, in fact, not just been waiting for us, looking for us, He’s been calling our names and inviting us back in to the Garden, to His Home, to our Home. Too many times, tragically, we don’t hear Him.
We were never going to “get ourselves back to the garden.” And that self-delusion, self-reliance, departure from the will of God and abandoning God to an unrequited Love is why we find ourselves in such a place as our world is today. Our lives need to be about love, and not just for a summer, but always. And it needs to be a genuine love. That’s a love that is selfless, sacrificial, total and without any strings attached. There can be no limits to our love.
Doesn’t that sound amazing and impossible? It is, without God’s love and God’s life within our very souls. Jesus shows us the way; indeed, Jesus IS the Way to that kind of life and love that knows no bounds, no conditions, no fear.
Although it may not seem related, (I believe it is), I’ve included a link below to a wonderful article that reveals that kind of selfless love. In my theology world we call it kenosis. It means a self-emptying so that God’s love can fill us up and we can do ALL things for those who need to know His love. It’s the Love Jesus has. He loves us with the love He receives from the Father and then gives it to us. We receive it and, because there’s nothing of ourselves left to obstruct that love – we have emptied ourselves of pride and self-importance, of having our own way, of fear and hatred of what we don’t understand – the Love of God fills us up and spills over until everyone around us can receive that same perfect Love. We can love them and let them know they’re loved by God.
The religious sisters you’ll read about are a wonderful, quintessential example of this kind of Love, the Love of God. These amazing women have pronounced to God, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Just like Jesus said in that other Garden, at Gethsemane.
Once you’ve experienced God’s Love in your life, you can’t resist. Well, yes, you can (see Adam and Eve above) but we resist at our own peril. It’s incredibly dangerous to willfully turn away from what God wants for us and from us. When you could be with God for all eternity, why would you want to “be like God?” We can’t anyway. Thank God we can behold His glory now sometimes, in glimpses, and then spend eternity in the presence of God. That will be total and eternal happiness, joy, peace, and I’m pretty sure lots of great music.