...to till and to keep...
Week 38, Day 2 …to till and to keep…
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2.15
The work of Creation, as pictured in Genesis 2, begins with a dry, dusty landscape. The reason for the desolation, we are told, is two fold—God has not caused it to rain upon the earth (and in a desert country, you know, water is life) and there was no one to till the ground (there was need of a partner, in other words). The Creation won’t, or maybe can’t, proceed until there is someone on hand who can work alongside God, tilling the earth and planting the seed, giving God something to rain on.
So the very first thing God does is shape a bit of this dusty ground into the form of a man, breathing into him the breath of life to create a living being.
Interesting, isn’t it, that this creature who is created to care for the earth is made from the earth, made of the very stuff he will be charged with caring for. The point is pretty clear. When we care for the earth—from our own back yards to farm fields and forests, to the oceans, lakes and rivers, we are in fact caring for ourselves; and by extension, we are caring for our children and our neighbors.
Flip that point and it’s still true. When we abuse the earth—ripping out its heart for profit with no thought to the harm we cause or the mess we leave behind, we are raining abuse on ourselves; we are abusing our children and our neighbors.
The man and woman in the story lost the garden when they decided they knew better than their Creator who they were and how they should live; when they broke trust with God, trusting instead in their own fruit-inspired wisdom gained at the Tree of Knowledge. Their place in the Garden of Delights was more fragile than they had thought.
This is certainly a cautionary tale for us. We are as much dust-made and God-breathed as the first man. We are still in partnership with the Creator, charged with caring for the earth that is both our home and the source of our being. Our calling, town-dwellers and farmers alike, is to love the earth as we love ourselves; to love the ground because we are the ground. Our calling is to revel in the beauty and abundance of the Creation and to preserve it for our children and neighbors.
The man and woman will learn, in the second half of this story, that while there is a way out of the garden, there is no way back in. We would do well to attend to their mistake.
Prayer: Forgive our pride and greed, Loving God. We have gone from breaking ground to plant seed to breaking the ground, leaving it as barren as it was in the beginning. Root us again. Connect us in care to the earth from which you brought us. Amen.