October 12, 2019

The Bible I read every morning is the Bible I’ve owned since fourth grade, an NIV rife with notes and asterisks and underlines, a book I no longer take out of the house, as its pages have detached from II Corinthians onwards. It’s full of symbols that denote different things (“I like this” or “I’ve copied this into a notebook I only had the enthusiasm to maintain for a month”). It also bears the markings of something quite troubling: passages I once considered significant, not for what they taught me about God, but for what I believed they told me about my future. If I know where this strange road is going, I can be ready for whatever comes. But that’s not really how life works, is it? We never know where this strange road is going. But we want to. Even the most carefree among us craves certainty, the way we crave oxygen or sunlight or love. And even those of us who believe in God can find that our belief is of precious little comfort when the bottom drops out, or we get in a bind, or the bricks paving the way before us don’t look like the ones we’d hoped to walk on. So where, then, do we run? To our trite talk about “God’s will” (which, let’s be honest, none among us truly understands)? Or do we discount Him entirely and console ourselves with the delusion that we can be god, all the while nursing the sick wound within that knows we can be nothing of the sort? I don’t believe these are the only options. Last week, it occurred to me, for the first time in twenty-plus years of Christianity, that the tree of life was also in the garden—unrestricted, in the center of everything, beside the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unlike this second tree, the fruit of life was free to eat, and yet, Adam and Eve seem not to have noticed it. “The tree that is in the middle of the garden,” Eve tells the serpent, speaking of the restricted tree—the thing we can’t get at, the limit God has placed on our humanity, and so, of course, it is the only tree we want to eat from. But I wonder what would’ve happened if they—if we—were to have chosen life instead. If we would trust God with all we cannot know, could we taste true life, instead of eating the fruit that turns to ashes in our mouths? For the knowledge we need is not the kind we’re so hell-bent on running after. It is not the unattainable certainty of knowing what’s coming—it is the certainty of knowing Who has come, and is with us still, and will be always, “even to the end of the world.”

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