It stood defiant, framing the long driveway. A single word –
P A R A D I S E.
The letters were carved into a giant log that spanned the width of asphalt and placed atop two support poles. The sign welcomed its visitors, all those that turned off the main road.
The archway could be seen as you round the curve in the road. And this is the interesting thing, I’ve driven this road 100s of times and never noticed it. But today, the sign stood stark against the backdrop of its surroundings.
In 2020, just as the pandemic was engulfing the country, a wildfire raged through Oregon. It consumed acres of forest and took with it homes, wildlife, and small-town economies. The devastation was unimaginable.
One scene will be forever etched in my memory. A single two-story home stood proud, unscathed by the flames. Yet, all the surrounding properties had been consumed, piles of ash on bare foundations, only the chimneys stood as reminders of what had been.
P A R A D I S E graced a driveway that led to scorched trees and a cement slab. The home was gone. The foundation swept clean, charred twisted metal was piled neatly in one corner of the yard.
P A R A D I S E led to utter devastation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my drive, the randomness of the destruction, the pain and suffering the fire caused. It draws on similarities to another garden experience that changed the course of the world.
Nestled deep in what scholars believe is northern Mesopotamia or the mountains of Armenia, the first garden was created. It was filled with beautiful trees, all types of animals, and man in his perfection. Fed by a good water source, life proliferated.
The Bible tells us, sin entered the world through the selfish actions of Eve and Adam. With them, paradise was lost. The brokenness we now experience is a direct descendant from that first sin, charting the course for God’s redemptive plan.
But we shouldn’t lose hope because the Bible also tells us that we will return to garden perfection. A garden where the streets are paved with gold and precious stones, trees bear ongoing fruit, and living water runs freely.
The question becomes, how do we live between these two gardens? How do we survive in the brokenness of sin looking toward future perfection?
The wildfire selected the targets of its consumption. Leaving some structures and landscape unscarred while ravaging others. There was no pattern to the rampage. No one could predict the fire’s path. No one could anticipate or avoid its impact.
It is the same with our lives. We can’t anticipate what is going to happen, storms come and take with them a life’s worth of work – leaving only memories. All our anxiety, planning, preparation does not ensure an easy, successful life. It does not guarantee paradise.
In the Bible, the book of John shares the story of Jesus preparing his followers for his death. He reassures them that for a short time, he will leave them but they can be confident that he will return. He goes on to say,
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
So perhaps the answer to our longings and loss is not found in our planning, our preparation but in God’s provision.
Driving away from the P A R A D I S E property, you round another curve, and off in the distance, a new home is rising from the blackened countryside. A solid two-story structure framed by the charred remains of 100-year-old pines. The rushing river acting as a backdrop to the emergence of new life.
Hope built from the rubble, our lives offered hope from the broken body of our savior.
This world is broken, scarred in unimaginable ways but God has overcome and he offers new life.
BeLOVED, you can trust him for your brokenness today and perfect hope for the future.
The first few chapters of the book of Genesis details God’s creation of the garden and man’s fall. Take a few minutes to read these passages from Genesis 3 and reflect on the questions that follow.
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”
16 Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”
17And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
New Living Translation
(Please visit Genesis 3 NLT – The Man and Woman Sin – The serpent was – Bible Gateway to read the full account of sin’s introduction into the world.)
Take a few minutes to consider the following.
- As you read these verses, what was the key to sins entry into the world? What actions could Eve and Adam have taken to resist the temptation of sin?
- If you are facing behaviors, decisions, or attitudes that are tempting you to sin. What steps can you take to refocus your heart and mind?
- We know that we always have God to help us during difficult times. But it also helps to have a community surrounding you that you can confide in. Do you have someone that you can talk to when you are facing struggles?