Holy Horticulture

“The Lord said we may not eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden or touch it, let we die.” – Eve  (Genesis 3:3)

But she was wrong. The evil didn’t reside in the tree. They could touch the tree if they had wanted. Adam could have carved Eve’s name inside a heart in the bark of the tree if he so desired. Eve and Adam could have climbed to the top of the tree and looked out over Eden. The evil did not reside in the tree. The evil didn’t even reside in the fruit. Not really. I suppose they could have picked the tree bare and thrown every last piece at each other in a prehistoric food fight. God’s only command of thou shall not was in the eating of the fruit.

O that Adam would have done like George Washington and cut down his Father’s fruit tree. O that he would have hewn it out and made a canoe for a family float trip down the Pishon. O that he would have ripped it out by the roots and cast it out of the garden; you know, plant it out east somewhere.

Instead, they made an extra rule for themselves. If it was good and God-pleasing to not eat the tree’s fruit, just think how proud God would be if they enshrined it behind bullet-proof glass and a seven foot high fence topped with razor wire and plenty of “DANGER-DO NOT TOUCH” signs surrounding it. “We can’t eat the fruit nor touch the tree.” See how they improved God’s Word and command.

But rather than contain the contamination, Eve unwittingly found a way to promulgate it. Its seeds burst out over creation when Eve reached forth her covetous hand to grasp the fruit for food. From that day on, Trees of the Knowledge of Good and Evil have sprouted up like weeds in the backyards of every man and woman. Truly a weed, but tended and nourished by its owner in the way an expert horticulturist would look after her prized tomatoes.

Perhaps her tummy was grumbling for food, but far more likely the grumbles were a stinging desire for more, more, more. Eating up the fruit, eating up the garden, eating up the lie that if you’d just eat a bit more your hunger will abate.

To the tree of all our lusts and passions we flee. Picking it clean we make a delightful salad of every last bit of our heart’s twisted desires. “And why shouldn’t we,” an unfortunately familiar voice prompts. It’s my tree. My fruit. My body. My choice. My life. My business. So why don’t you go mind yours.

Banished from the pristine picture of perfection, Adam and Eve stuffed their newly minted leathers with every last piece of fruit they could carry. Once Eve began birthing humanity, she and Adam mashed it up and fed it to the babies, a tradition we keep to this day. Lest a single bite go to waste, anything Abel decided to leave on his plate was lapped up like an overly parched jackal by his eager big brother.

Fat on the pies filled with lies and all that defies the only wise God, Cain cut every corner he could find. Plant more trees. Tend the orchard. You deserve more. You deserve to be satisfied. You deserve God’s good graces. You deserve it. Not Abel, but Cain. You’ve worked hard for what you have. You’ve sweat and bled for the mere morsels and there’s that fruit-wasting brother of yours taking what’s rightfully yours. Take it. Stretch out your hand and take it. Take the life from your brother. Spill his blood upon the ground of your well-groomed orchard. Feed your trees of Knowledge with the life-blood of your kin.

Disobey. Kill. Rape. Steal. Lie. Never be satisfied. Plant more seeds and rule your world. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do; what not to do. Build monuments and statues in your name . . .

Each new generation has planted Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We’ve decided one tree apiece is simply not enough. Forests dense with fruit trees produce more than we can take in, but O how we try because more is always better.

Somewhere in our crowded thicket grows the other Tree. A single sprout, too small and insignificant to be counted when compared with such lofty fruit-bearers. Still there it stands, after all these years. One tree. One symbol of what is right in a stand of wrong. A Tree of Life. Many have chopped it down but the cursed thing keeps sprouting back from the stump. Spike it. Burn it. Back it grows. A thorn in the side of a hedonistic people who don’t care to be bothered with a new way; a better way.

Over and over we’ve done what we can to rid ourselves of this righteous reminder that Cain’s fruit pie tastes wretched. That in our few and far between moments of clarity, we know we’re feasting upon nothing more than the hot air blown from the devil’s various orifices. We’ve never received an ounce of nourishment from this rubbish and we never will.

Again with the ax to the base of this Word of Truth. Truth has no place in my garden of self indulgence.

But this Tree. The more I do to rip it out, the more vigorously it comes back. I cannot rid myself of this Tree of Truth, this Tree of Life.

Darkness falls. We like the darkness; prefer it really. We’re frustrated when Light overtakes it. Never enough hours in the dark of night to fully fulfill my deepest desires before being utterly exposed. That’s what this Tree does. It opens its canopy just enough. Just so my dark deeds see day’s Light.

And in that Light, under such a pugnacious Tree, I see the wake of terror and damage my tornado-like meandering from one lust to the next has rendered.

. . . but what’s this new feeling? I don’t like it. Take it away. Remorse! Guilt! Shame! For what? This is my world. My body. My life. My business. But . . .

Well, nothing another bite of fruit can’t fix. More fruit. More sex. More drugs. More alcohol. More stuff. More pain needs more to counteract. But that blasted Light seems to have tainted my supply. My fruit stock looks somehow different. Corrupt and moldy. But could it be? This rotten fruit has so long been my feast that I never questioned the ever present stench about me was the deeds done by me and my fellow rancid fruit diners. I never considered the Truth. That it’s always been my own stinking breath under my nose that has been so unpleasant.

Peering in the reflection from a standing puddle of my own muck, I chance a glance at my face. I haven’t seen those sunken, bloodshot eyes in who knows how long. And those teeth! Apparently a steady diet of contaminated and fermenting fruit has a way of decaying all that is strong and beautiful in a person. The stains upon my face . . . deep set and seemingly indelible. I’m horrid! Monstrous. A mirror image of all the other Cain-pie eating fools who swarm me. I want to run.

I try, but quickly trip. I land face-down in my reflecting pool. I try to get up, but have no strength. I’m drowning in my own filth! How can it end like this? It’s not fair. Do you know who I am? I’m the ruler of this world. I grabbed life by the horns and refused to let go. I can’t die. I can’t go out like this. Not me. I’m too important.

Lights pop in my head. The last wisps of air escape me. Attempting to flail free, I simply drive my face deeper into the dung-pile of all I have accomplished with my life. At the point of my last breath I realize how all this happened. It was a root from that Tree that did this. I was tripped by a wending root I had failed to notice in my urge to flee the Truth. It was my encounter with the Tree of Life that is bringing about my death!

I can’t breathe. I can’t move. I can’t think. I’m dead.

But I’ve always been dead. All along I had been in some elaborate ruse. I never lived a day in my life. Or at least death is very reminiscent of what I had been calling life.

Unbidden was that Tree of Life in my garden of self-satisfaction. What was it doing there anyways? Yet as I lay here dead, it’s the only thing I can think about. An image of that Tree. So intent on ridding myself of its goodness I never looked at it properly. I think this Tree bore fruit too. Yeah, I’m sure I remember spotting it just before my face splashed to the ground. Why hadn’t I seen before? Why hadn’t I taken the time?

My greedy hands were too full of my own tree’s filth to ever reach to that other Tree. Why didn’t I drop my slop and try? But now it’s too late. Now I’m dead. My opportunity has abandoned me like I had done to so many of my so-called friends over the years.

So what happens now? I guess I wait to be discovered. O please hurry.

Again to my mind comes thoughts of that Tree. That Fruit! How could it be that I whiff the sweet fragrance of what must be a delicious treat? How is it that I feel a touch on my back? I’ve been found! My shame has been brought to an end!

I hear a Voice. Far different from the one I’ve always heeded. As He pulls me from my filth, a glance at his feet reveals deep wounds. Then I pass out.

Hours (or perhaps years) later I wake to find the new Fruit about which I’ve dreamed laying by my head with a note. “Take. Eat. Be filled.”

I ate. I was filled. I live.

Gracious Jesus Christ, come and save me from the mire of my sins. Save the people of this world from eating the forbidden fruit. Restore us from the shame of our fallen condition. Feed us the fruit from the Tree of Life. Amen.

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