You know, there was something that always haunted me about the Garden of Eden story. It was a setup. The garden was put in place, and Adam was put in the garden. He had no say over how it looked, what animals and plants it included, or what his role in it would be. He simply had to tend the garden and avoid that one tree. But what if, like me, he wasn’t much of a gardener?
Last weekend I began my own Garden of Eden story. I cleared the brush away, like sweeping away the demons of my past...demons that goaded me into things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing or saying when I was younger. The thorny plant patch by the garden, like my life, wasn’t full of thorny plants, but it was the thorny plants that held it all together. It can be awfully hard to let go of those things that link us to our past – habits, thoughts, beliefs – and move on to bigger and better things. It can be easy to hold on to being unhappy, upset…miserable.
For years I subscribed to the “if only” belief…if only this person and I get along better…if only I solve this stumbling block at work…if only the world becomes a happier place…then things will get better. But these “if only” contingencies were like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – illusions that kept me from making real progress. All along, there were plenty of things to hold onto, plenty of things to be happy about…if only I was to look for them.
This is the problem with the Garden of Eden story. There was no opportunity for growth. In a perfect world, how does one become better? We strive for perfection in our lives: more comfortable surroundings, better relationships, being more kind and caring, showing more love. But for Adam and Eve, eating the apple led to not merely an awareness of good and evil…it led to the awareness that perfection is not a physical state, but a state of mind. It’s possible to find perfection in an apple or a banana…in a simple meal with friends…in the satisfaction one finds from a job well done. Growth comes not always from becoming better – behaving in a more loving way, for example – but from understanding our behaviors and how they affect others and ourselves. Growth is a conscious – and sometimes unconscious – process of appreciating that which we have. We aren’t striving toward a perfect life…we’re looking to see how the things in our lives reflect the perfection that we’re striving toward.
Every once in a while, something comes along to clear out the weeds. Like the entrance to the garden that I uncovered in my backyard, a portal to happiness opens up in our lives. In my life, embracing the yard work that I have to do has become such a portal. Unlike Adam in the Garden, I can build my own garden into what I want.