Banned from the Garden: Why God's Withholding is Sometimes His Greatest Mercy

Do you ever feel like God is withholding something from you?  I know I do.  I can make up all of these plans for myself and when they fail to see light in my own timing or in my own way its easy to blame Him for the falling short.  Frustration looks different for everyone but here's what it looks like for me:  if it were up to me, by now I would probably have a few more stamps on my passport, I would live in a cute cottage style home with white walls and charming open cabinets in the kitchen, I would quadruple my savings account, I'd have several thousand people following along my blog, and most of all I would actually be getting paid to write.  That sounds like a lot of complaining but in this space, we are honest and I carry a fair share of weaknesses.  I want to talk about these things because I know I can't be the only one who feels frustrated or in some way left behind and unseen by God.

Sometimes my heart just wants to scream:  "God why are you withholding from me?!" 
Doesn't He see me too?  Doesn't He see my dreams and desires too? 

Of course He does and if you are sitting in the same boat as me, He sees you too.  The reality is that He holds it all in His hands but while we can only glimpse the fleeting moment right in front of us, He is able to see all our days stretched out before Him and He knows better.  So, let me share with you what God has been sharing with me.  

Let's go back to the garden.

"The Lord God said, 'Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.'  So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life." - Genesis 3:22-24

I don't know how many times I have read over this passage and missed the heart of it.  Okay, Adam and Eve sinned and their punishment was to be banned from the garden and no longer able to partake in eating from the tree of life.  I get it.  But is that really what this is about?  Is it about an angry God who fears that man may become a rival should he live forever?  

But our Creator has no rival and sin brought on the penalty of death, not God so could this really be a story about grace?  It's all too easy to conclude that death is physical when in reality, death is spiritual.  Death is shame and guilt, death calls us filthy and unworthy, death pollutes all in its path and ultimately isolates us from our source of life, which is so much more than just breath in our lungs.

Imagine then, Adam and Eve in their new state of sin reaching out once again and eating from the tree of life.  They would have lived forever but in a tainted garden.  There's another name for it:  hell.  So God lifted His finger, pointed onward, and drove them out.  With great sorrow, I imagine.  But not without a plan to nail His Son to a cross.  The greatest mercy extended in the history of mankind started with an exile.  Condemnation would have said, "You did this to yourself, go ahead and build for yourselves an eternal living hell" while instead, grace said, "Let me send you away for a time so that I can fix this!"

And that's just it, because of His great love God didn't just merely send man away to rot.  He has been in the midst of restoring this world since it fractured and just look at the beautiful truth that we have to look forward to: 

"Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing form the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city's main street.  The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, and there will no longer be any curse."  - Revelation 22:1-3

Did you catch that?  In the new Jerusalem the tree of life will once again be in the center of the garden, it will be for the healing of the nations.  And this time there will be no curse!  It's amazing!
Once restoration is finally complete, God is going to return to us something that He once had to hide away.  This isn't the most lyrical thing I have ever said, but honestly, it just blows my mind!  Psalms 84:11 says that God withholds no good thing so if He has to withhold something we can know that it is for our good and that He is still in the midst of preparing the very best for us.  

If you feel frustrated or put off by God, let me encourage you with my whole heart, dig deeper!  God's character is worth searching and if we commit to the searching we will find that His number one priority is to lead us to a new garden where we will be restored to our fullest in His presence.

Let's rest in that reality.  We need not shake our fist at God for keeping us from the things we think we need.  He is for us and in His own timing He withholds no good thing.

My Word for 2020

As 2019 began to wind down I started thinking more and more about my word for 2020.  As I was casting this vision for myself I was thinking of the one main goal that I have and that's to get a book published.  If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I finished writing a book in 2018.  During the first half of 2019 I edited and edited some more, until I couldn't think straight.  This is after all, my first attempt of writing at this magnitude and getting it perfect felt like a lot of pressure.  So I decided a few months ago that I would leave it until the new year.  I needed to give myself time so 2020 will be the year of "going for it"  

All that to say, I thought my word for this year would really center on this goal that I have set for myself.  That is until a few days ago.  I was sitting in the parking lot at the grocery store waiting for my mom to quickly run a few errands.  If you want to know why I didn't go in with her it has to do with a moroon velour tracksuit that I personally find perfectly suitable to wear in public but the rest of my family refuses to be seen with me while wearing said tracksuit.  Therefore, I waited in the car.  

It all worked out though because while my mom was away I took the time to just sit with the Lord for a few minutes.  I turned on some worship music and Hosanna by Hillsong began to play and one line really stood out to me:  "I see a generation rising up to take their place" And then it hit me.  My word would branch from these lyrics.  After giving it more consideration over the next couple of days, I came up with the word. 


Now let me explain.  These lyrics really, REALLY excite me because I truly believe that Christ is raising up a generation that is going to see wonders, a generation that is going to push through to a revival.  He is calling out:  "whom shall I send?" and we mustn't merely reply "send me."  We have to take action.  When God gives me a responsibility I want to plant it into the ground and water it and give it sunlight.  I want to care for it so that I can see it bear fruit.  God has given me responsibility in my marriage, as a mother, in my talents, in my time and if I am not taking action in each with clear intention then I am sitting idly all while God has invited me to take part in building His kingdom.  Here are some of the things I am looking to take action on in 2020 and beyond:

1. My marriage.  In order that it won't grow stale I will keep pouring in.  That means keeping it Christ centered, serving more and taking less, more understanding and less anger, more praying together, more talking, more playing, more time together, and saying yes to big adventures together (we have a BIG one planned for this summer!!!)

2. Parenting.  Though my kids are still quite young one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a mother is how to tenderly lead my children.  I am going to let you in on a secret:  I have a problem with raising my voice.  If my children have a hard time listening the first time there is something that switches in my brain.  "Well maybe if I say it a little louder they will actually get the picture!"  My six year old has a heart like butterfly wings, so tender.  If I held her up to the light I could probably see right through her.  Lately she has been asking me to stop yelling so much and I'm not angry at her for the request I think it may have actually broke my heart.  I've decided that I need to listen to her.  As their mother I need to sit with the Lord more and ask Him to give me the tools I need to raise responsible, respectful, kind, Christ following children without losing my cool so often.

3. Spiritual Growth.  We are an army family so we move a lot and guess what!  We are moving again.  I may write more on this later but long story short my husband is being promoted and therefore has to take a position at the next rank and it happens to be in another city.  We've been doing this for 10 years so we are USED to it but it has allowed us to get a little stagnant when it comes to seeking out mentors.  By the time we get settled somewhere it comes time to start over again.  But the more we prepare for this next move Bryan and I are determined to seek out meaningful mentorship.  We don't just want to be church goers, we want to be discipled.  We want to learn and grow under the wing of people who are older and wiser and who have just seen more of life than we have.  I truly believe that it is vital to our growth and refinement.

4.  My time.  Over the past several years I have gotten really great at not resting.  Mainly, I have gotten into the mindset where I would rather have a clean home than a rested soul.  Don't get me wrong, having a clean and ordered home is very important to me.  It's just something that personally helps me keep my mind straight but I have definitely come to a place of overdoing it.  I find it hard to sit and just enjoy the things that I love if a few things are out of place.  I want to intentionally fight against that so I can feel rested by permitting myself to give my attention to just ONE thing that I love at a time like reading, or painting my nails, or writing, or even watching my favorite show.  When I am well rested I love better, I hold more patience, I am more productive.  This one may just be the most difficult fight for me so I know it will take some time but that's okay!  This is about growth not perfection.

5. My Writing.  This is where my book actually comes in because the time has really come to start pushing things forward however terrified I truly am.  This means being intentional about writing proposals, researching publication methods, reaching out to agents, etc.  OH! and lots and lots of PRAYER!!! Its scary but I am believing that if I take the steps, God will do the rest.

Pertaining to my blog, I plan to just keep writing!  I have found something in writing that just fuels me to share Christ and I love that I have been given this avenue to do so.  I hope you are ready for more! 

So back to me in the car wearing my maroon velour tracksuit.  I had the realization that my "goals" can't be about me.  They have to be more than that.  I want to take action because I am ready to be a part of a generation raised up!  Not to be glorified by my own success but so that when people look at me they see Christ.  That's the goal.  "Lord, send me.  So that in the way that I live my life, they might see You!"

I am so excited for the roaring 20's.  Let's live up to the name and be the generation to take their place.  May we no longer sit as idle spectators of the world around us but let's be set apart as bearers of light.  Let's take action and let's be ready to see the glory of God!