December 14, 2017

iMonk Authors Week: Adam Palmer

Spring Green, Photo by David Cornwell

Spring Green, Photo by David Cornwell

iMonk Authors Week

We have been taking a break from some of our usual posts to highlight authors who contribute here at Internet Monk. I am blessed to partner with many fine, gifted, and faithful writers, who have written books that I’d love for you to know about. For those of you still getting familiar with the site, you can always find some of these books listed on the right sidebar of the page, under “iMonk Authors.” The books pictured there are linked to sites where you can purchase them and support these folks in their craft.

Pictures on these “iMonk Authors” days are from our friend, David Cornwell. Visit his Flickr page to see more.

Today, we feature an excerpt from a book co-written by Adam Palmer, who has shared his gifts often with us. It’s about a subject dear to our hearts here at Internet Monk, and is called, Go Small: Because God Doesn’t Care About Your Status, Size, or Success.

• • •

The Most Adorable Commandment
An excerpt from Go Small, by Craig Gross with Adam Palmer

In Genesis 2, we read the story of the creation, when God calls everything into existence and makes the entire world. And then God plants a garden in a place called Eden, an ideal land full of perfection and grace and natural wonder. It’s everything a person could need—lush greenery to keep it shaded, a diverse collection of fruitful trees for food, and four different rivers that provide ample clean water for drinking and bathing.

When we think of the word paradise, the picture that leaps into our minds is probably something falling remarkably short of the garden of Eden. This place is heaven on Earth—a glorious spectacle of nature that has all the great stuff about the outdoors (pretty scenery, delicious food, refreshing water) and, presumably, none of the bad (predatory animals, rough weather, mosquitoes).

Amid this grand natural beauty, this perfect paradise, God plunks down Adam—the first man, the pinnacle of all creation—into the garden. Then what does He say?

God tells Adam to take care of it.

Isn’t that hilarious?

Have you ever stopped to consider what that even means? I would imagine that most of us don’t pause there, because the very next sentence focuses upon the singular action that Adam isn’t supposed to take—the part where God tells Adam he can eat from any tree in the garden except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is very typical of us to look out for the rules to follow, to try to find what we’re not supposed to do so we can make sure we don’t do it.

But I want to back up and look at the command God gave Adam, what He specifically said to do. Because that is absolutely a riot if you look at it closely. It’s the cutest li’l commandment in the Bible.

Again: God told Adam to take care of the garden. What do you suppose that would look like, in reality? Was he supposed to mow the lawn? Trim the hedges? Spray pesticide on the fruit trees to keep the bugs off? Sprinkle some Miracle-Gro on the tomato plants to make them nice and juicy?

See what I mean? It’s laughable! Because God gave Adam the easiest job in the world—to take care of a garden that was the utmost paradise. The thing could run itself without Adam’s help. Adam couldn’t make the trees grow tastier fruit or make the rivers run clearer or more efficiently. He couldn’t make the animals get along with each other or implement a growth strategy for regional, national, and then global success.

Nope. I believe the way God meant for Adam to care for the garden was simply to use it. To enjoy it. To romp and play and just do nothing. Eden was created to be a playground for Adam to enjoy God’s creation and then, once a day, hang out with God. It was a place where Adam could do pretty much whatever he wanted—except worry about right and wrong. He didn’t even know about them yet!

It was an extraordinary place to do a bunch of really ordinary stuff.

It’s the very picture of God’s acceptance, of His love, of His grace.

And check this out: all the agricultural tricks to having higher-yield crops—you know, working the ground, planting seeds and reaping harvests, tending crops, and all that—all that work, was the first curse God laid on Adam after the fall.

In case I lost you, let me back up. In the creation story, after God put Adam in the garden, He then made Eve and put her in the garden with Adam. Then the two of them hung out for a bit, just having the time of their lives in God’s playground. Then the devil showed up in the form of a serpent and tricked Eve into eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which she handed over to Adam so he could partake as well. Their disobedience got them booted out of the garden and into the wilderness we now call the real world.

Once they were kicked out, God cursed all three of them. The devil was cursed to eat dust, and God threw a messianic prophecy on top of him for good measure. Eve, on the other hand, was cursed to have pain in childbirth—sorry, women of the world.

And Adam? He was cursed to have to work. To sweat and toil in the dirt and grime in order to make a living.

Think about that for a minute.

Is it possible that our desires to do something big for God come from the notion that we can improve on the garden of Eden? When we get into work mode and start hoping to achieve big things for Jesus, are we actually reaching back for a time when Adam was cursed for his disobedience?

Are we uncomfortable just playing in the garden to the delight of the Lord?

Don’t get me wrong—I believe in hard work; that’s part of how things get done in this world. It’s a fact of life and society, and it won’t change soon.

I’m just wondering if maybe we need to get back to an Eden-guided viewpoint on work, placing less emphasis on the doing part and instead getting back to the God-breathed, God-ordained life of being.

That’s grace.

That’s the gospel.

Comments

  1. Heather Angus says:

    A lovely essay, Adam. Thank you for it. The idea of just hanging out in a garden with God (and without mosquitoes!) is so enticing. Who wouldn’t want it?

    I don’t take the Eden story as literal truth, but I love it and find several ways to look at it. One of the most resonant with me is the idea that the story represents the universal truth of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. In childhood, we are (if we’re lucky) surrounded by delightful things for us to enjoy — toys and so forth. We’re protected and fed and loved by benevolent guardians — parents, relatives, teachers. And we think it will go on forever. But then come the hormones, the turmoil, and, rather literally, the knowledge of good and evil. Sex, rebellion, confusion, and shame take the individual out of the Garden, and pretty soon, he is “cast out” of his parents’ home and “condemned” to make his own way in the world, and she is “condemned” to bear children and raise them. In this version of the origin story, there is no going back. The flaming sword of mundane adult reality bars the path forever.

    Almost all Christians before, say, Darwin, took the Eden story literally, and some still do. I grew up under two archaeologist parents, and basically never considered the story as anything but metaphorical. I remember reading with astonishment one of C. S. Lewis’ essays in which he affirmed his belief in a literal Adam and Eve, and he furthermore went on, in his sly way, to suggest that if you didn’t believe that you of course weren’t a Christian. I think his expression was something like this: “Yes, like Milton, I do believe in Adam and Eve and the Genesis story. But my readers may get an advantage from that, because they will be reading an interpretation of Milton written by an actual Christian. It will be an advantage like reading an interpretation of Homer written by an actual believer in the Greek gods!”

    • Love your take on Eden! I’ve thought of it this way, too, to some extent, but you really fleshed it out. Thank you for sharing!

    • >> . . . they will be reading an interpretation of Milton written by an actual Christian.

      If accurate, and unless intended tongue in cheek, which I think not, this remark isn’t sly, it’s snide, or as we would say today, snarky. If anyone tried to pull that one here, they would be called out immediately. I’m provisionally deducting five points from Lewis, and if I wasn’t allowing for when and where it was written, it would be ten. Disappointing. Maybe someone can find and post the original passage.

      Good thoughts on Eden as what we all go thru on our way up. And on its facticity being pretty much irrelevant to its value.

      • Robert F says:

        Lewis could be a bit of a bully. He was known to be one in public debates, and it comes across in some of the things he wrote, too, especially in the nasty caricatures he sometimes passes off as characters in his fiction.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Something very like, no, exactly like, what Genesis recounts actually happened.

      Whether we would have had eyes to see it had we been there, or whether we would have seen only some flashes of light and a couple of australopithecines grubbing about for roots and fruit is another story. [John 12:28-29]

  2. “Is it possible that our desires to do something big for God come from the notion that we can improve on the garden of Eden?” I’d say yes.

    I speak to people all the time who are planning or hoping or desiring to go on a mission trip to some not-too-foreign land for a week or two. “Look what we are doing for the Lord!” I’ve gotten slick looking catalogs in the mail advertising mission trip packages including what amenities are nearby for post-mission fun. Meanwhile, organizations in our proverbial backyards lack enough volunteer help and funding. How many of us have a friend or relative that would be thrilled if we just came and sat with them for a bit? But none of that seems big enough or important enough.

  3. I agree, Suzanne !
    Like this post, thanks for this week of authors .

  4. Absolutely. Being and becoming is the work. The fruit of that work is what we we call works of righteousness. Those ‘works’ are the natural byproduct of the real work of unifying ourselves with ourselves, each other and the Lord.

  5. Christiane says:

    I think I get it. When we read ‘Be still, and know that I am God’, we emphasize the word ‘still’, but take for granted the word ‘be’. Just ‘being’ is something we really have trouble with, isn’t it? In our fast-paced, tech-savy world? with so much to do and so many distractions?

    I went with my family to a grave site recently and we sat there for a time. And it was good. It seemed right. To BE there. Together.
    “All shall BE well, and all shall BE well, and all and all shall BE well.” the prayer of one of our saints, probably a woman 🙂

    • Yes, of course it was a woman.

    • Robert F says:

      I don’t think Julian of Norwich is a canonized Saint, though of course she is, like the rest of us, a saint.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        St Julian of Norwich is venerated as a big-S Saint by the Roman Catholic Church as well as by those segments of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches which venerate saints.

        Mother Julian, pray for us.

        • Big-S Saint, that’s amusing, tho perhaps I’m hearing it a little different than most. Venerable, interesting word.

        • Robert F says:

          Yes, Mule, she is venerated and honored by all those you mention, and referred to as Saint Julian of Norwich in the Roman Catholic Church, but she’s never been formally canonized. Not that it matters to me, unrepentant Protestant that I am. Julian is very important in the spiritual tradition and history of the Church of England, and by extension to the Anglican Communion, of which I’m a member. I like her quite a lot, and will be happy to pray for her and “to” her along with you.

        • Robert F says:

          I think her tendency toward univeralism, and her positive view of human nature/soft-pedaling of original sin, kept her from being canonized.

        • Robert F says:

          Mother Julian, greet your countrywoman, Member of Parliament Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox, whose young life this day was taken from her, and who even this hour joins you in eternity. Guide her along the path, help her as she turns toward the Light and moves toward the bliss of our Lord’s unfiltered love. Pray for her young family, her husband and young children, so that they may not lose hope or be overcome by despair. Guide the nation she sought to serve, your nation, along the right ways, and pray for the forgiveness of the man who heinously took her life, that he might repent and be redeemed from the hatred in his own heart. I pray all this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

          • Heather Angus says:

            Thank you for this, Robert. Another tragedy.

          • Christiane says:

            Yes, a great tragedy. She was the mother of two young children. God have mercy.

          • That Other Jean says:

            Amen.

          • Danielle says:

            News of Jo Cox yesterday is a heavy thing added to an already heavy week. There is such a raw hatred at large here and in Europe, which seems for the moment to have momentum. Who can stand? Lord have mercy.