Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature,that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Oh, now this is tantalizing. We have the location of the Garden of Eden, at least in theory: verses 10-14 give us four rivers from which we can work backwards to locate it. And if you look up “four rivers from Genesis” or some variation thereof you will find all sorts of theories on which rivers those are (or were) and where the Garden of Eden may be hidden. Most seem to think it’s somewhere in southern Iraq. So, technically, we should be able to locate it, right?
I’m going to get a little woo-wooey Christian here in my theory. I think the Garden of Eden does exist, just as Heaven does, but it exists alongside us, or maybe even within us, kind of in a separate plane, so searching for it physically is a fool’s errand. One of the things about Christianity, and probably a lot of religions, if you think about it, is contradictory or seemingly impossible things can exist at once. For example, God is One in Three. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three entities, but Christianity is not a polytheism because they are also one entity. It’s a concept, I admit, I struggle to comprehend – how something can be wholly separate and wholly one at the same time. Advent is another good example of kinda weird overlapping: We are awaiting both the infant Jesus and his return as Messiah. How can we await the birth and the full-grown return of the same man, arriving at the same time? If you believe that time is a human structure that doesn’t really have any metaphysical boundaries, then it’s possible….but also kind of headache inducing to think about too hard, at least for me.
I believe a lot of the stuff we are tempted to take way too literally in the Bible – The Garden of Eden, Heaven, the Rapture, maybe even Hell – are much more subtle and complex than we give them credit for. This is my major beef with all face-value interpretations of the Bible: basically, we’re selling ourselves short by coming up with the easiest answers. Again, the simple and complex answers can be true at the same time: if you stare head-on at a cube you do indeed see just a square, but you’re missing so much of the picture.
Ok, let’s step back from this acid-tripping theoretical stuff and talk about how this might apply more readily to our physical, here and now, day to day life. In verse 15, God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Here’s human-kind’s very first job description – Head Groundskeeper. Now, I’m not arguing that everyone should drop everything and go out to be some mystical farmer/forester, but I do think that this is the concrete part of the chapter – rather than the possible location of the Garden of Eden – that we should be focused upon.
Are you following God’s calling in your calling? You know what, let’s take one more step back, and not even take that too literally. Some people truly are doing God’s calling in their jobs, but everyone needs to pay the bills and not everyone can be a spiritual warrior, so perhaps your job is just that – a job, and that’s perfectly fine. But are you living your life fully in God’s calling? Because the more people that do so, the more I believe we will find that Heaven, and the Garden of Eden, have been here all along: It’s just a mindset we need to tap into.
As we’ll see when reading more of the New Testament, we are told over and over to be prepared for the return of the Lord. It’s good advice, but rather abstract, and in the absence of concrete steps to take, I fear that many turn to judgement of their brothers and sisters as well as unnecessary guilt over their own perceived shortcomings. So, my advice – and this is just my own, novice, un-ordained, un-trained advice – is this: Focus on your own work, cultivating your own Garden of Eden mindset. Find happiness in your daily work. It can be little things, but really focus on that joy. I, for example, take great joy in folding towels because they make nice, neat rectangles and are easy to put away. I step back after the dishes are done to admire my empty sink. Finding these little joys will allow you to be more present for others. Recognize those you come across have their own burdens, and it is not for us to judge, but to help where we can. Creating a mindset in ourselves where we can be nice to others, and then extending that kindness to those around us, will bring us all a little closer to that Garden of Eden mindset, and closer to God.