"The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed."
Genesis 2:8 NKJV
I think God has an affinity for gardens.
He could have begun the world anyway He chose.
Instead of starting it out impersonally, drearily striking primordial ooze with a stray bolt of lightning (which, incidentally, doesn't make life) He chose to carefully prepare a glorious creation. He made unimaginably complex and beautiful plants and animals and an intricate footprint of life called DNA, which even a "simple single-celled organism" contains - thereby cancelling the concept of a "simple single-celled" anything.
He prepared so carefully for man, with grasses to soothe bare feet, and trees to shade them (and provide perches for singing birds to please them.) He made animals small and great, some utilitarian and some, I think, just to make us laugh aloud with joy - seriously now, a rhinoceros? With sheets of metal skin and that horn on its nose? Have you ever really looked at a giraffe? A duck-billed platypus? A raccoon? Plus He made some to astound us with size - Elephants and grizzly bears- and beauty - Bengal tigers or leopards or majestic lions. Some were small and cuddly looking, like Koalas and spider monkeys. And some are soft and furry - loving kitties or doggie companions. He even made tiny bugs intricately - aerodynamically-challenged bumblebees that don't know they can't fly and happily buzz their days away. Hummingbirds that defy flight patterns by doing it backwards and upside down. And that giver of summer magic, the firefly - sparkling in the long summer grasses on hot, sticky evenings.
Each one of these were Hand crafted lovingly for the delight of the last ones He made: mankind. Man is the only created being with an awe and appreciation of beauty, who gazes in wonder at redwood forests and giant Sequoias and seaweed forests filled with colorful animals. It has always amazed me that His fish have abundant, heart stopping color - as do corals of all shapes and sizes - and yet the color disappears the deeper you get in the water. It waited for man and his artificial light sources to see the corals at their finest - and deeper yet, submersible subs that go so deep there is no light at all - except for the animals themselves, pulsating with glorious neon lights that thrill the spirit.
The sheer diversity of life and its stunning complexity will often drop me face down before Him in awe.
And yet, this beautiful, glorious, heart-stoppingly amazing world around us is tainted and broken, thanks to Adam - and if this is broken and tainted, what must Eden have been? What will heaven be? We can't even begin to imagine the answers to those questions - and all of it is for our delight.
How His Father-Heart must have delighted in the finishing touches - giving that animal especially soft fur for cuddling, and then tacking that wee light onto the firefly's bottom, no doubt seeing generations of future children thrilling to this wonder-filled dancing light on lawns and gardens.
When days are long and difficult, filled with pain or infirmity, it's hard to get jazzed over a few twigs and bugs. But the more I meditate on God's love of beauty, the more I begin to see that He is in the process of "beautifying" me! The pain makes a wonderful sandpaper for bringing out those rough things that need to be smoothed. My self-centered heart needs to learn to look beyond today's difficulties and see the beauty He has promised to us as He changes us, not from scuzbag to less scuzzybag, but "from glory to glory" (how that phrase astounds me!) The garden He is planting in our heart is a secret place where He comes, as of old, in the coolness of the evening, to join us and refresh us after a bad day. He even speaks of the dangers of "roots" of bitterness, and how "love of money" is the "root" of all evil. And yes, it is possible to have a love of money even when you have none. Perhaps especially when you have none. It is then that the temptation to bend rules to acquire money has its greatest power.
There are weeds of the soul as well as weeds of the soil - and the locusts of pain and fear can make the soul as barren as any empty dry field.
For me the comfort comes in knowing that He Himself planted that first garden. And He Himself planted the one that is growing, right now, in my heart of hearts. And when things go bad, the pain is ferocious, or I have stumbled so badly I'm struggling with guilt and shame, He is there, in the garden, waiting for me with open arms.
And He waits for you, too - just a little east of Eden.