Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So, why did God plant the tree?

This is cross-posted at if life is a highway.

The question that stuck with me after my most recent meeting with my Bible study group was this: Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place? I mean, ultimately, the tree represents the ability of people to choose their own destruction. If God did not give people the ability to choose, life would still be perfect in the garden of Eden. Perfect. Instead, the "gift" of free choice means that we live in a world where murder, rape, hunger, disease, and greed exist right alongside compassion, generosity, abundance, health, and joy. Love crashes and shatters against evil every day. Perfection does not exist.

So, why?

The best answer that I know of is that God wanted us to CHOOSE. God wants us to freely choose relationship with God, which means that there has to be another choice. Otherwise we are robots, creatures who worship God because that's what we were created to do, but not because we choose God. And, honestly, I believe that God wants to be chosen. God doesn't desire relationship with beings who have no choice.

God gave us the dignity of being free. God grants us the respect of autonomous beings.

I mentioned (in my Bible study) that it's a little like being parents. We could, potentially, protect our children from risk (and also choice and freedom) for much of their lives, maybe even their whole lives if we did a good enough job of isolating them. But then who would our children be? We've all heard of people who have been so isolated they can hardly function, and they certainly cannot think for themselves. They have no personality, no individual personhood.

Having read a fair amount about different types of parenting, I know that kids who are raised by more strict parents, especially strict conservative Christian parents may be less likely to endure a tumultuous adolescence, but they are also less creative, less adventurous, and less engaging than their peers who have been allowed more freedom...including the freedom to make some stupid choices.

Another wise parent in the Bible study group responded that, of course, she allows her son some choices...but she wouldn't let him set himself on fire and dance naked on the kitchen table. ;) In other words, she limits his choices to protect his life.

It seems that God didn't do that. God put that tree right there in the garden and did not prevent people from eating the fruit that would lead to destruction...to unspeakable pain and evil.

I'm sorry to admit that I became swallowed up in my own thoughts after that and lost the discussion, and by the time I returned the topic had moved on (we were discussing The Shack, and there's plenty there to talk about).

Here's what I was thinking, though. It's true that while my children are young, I protect them from the serious choices, choices that could mean the difference between life and death. I don't let Mane run out into the street or set herself on fire. But, very recently, I've been faced with the fact that I cannot do that with Vespera. I cannot protect her from every choice that has the potential to harm her.

If I remove her choice, her freedom, even in cases where her life could be in danger, I destroy our relationship. I'm willing to beg, plead, and persuade when I think she's making an unwise choice. But if I cross over the line into removing her freedom, I open a chasm between us. We can talk, negotiate, and argue...unless I take away her freedom. Then I've shut down communication, broken the lines, built a wall, or whatever else you want to call it. And we are left with a quiet, empty chasm between us.

And God is a God of relationship, a God who wants to communicate with us, even if it's to argue and persuade. There's simply nothing to say if we don't have any choices. So, God gave us choices to keep our relationship.

I've been trying to post this for 3 days and keep changing it. So, go easy on me. I'd love a discussion if ya'll have anything to say, ask, or argue.

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