A repost from 2008.
I was doing the annual spring yard clean-up this past weekend. My wife had done most of the raking and left them in neat piles for me to come behind and bag up. I’m a manly man, so I didn’t think I needed to wear work gloves to pick up a few leaves. What I didn’t expect as I thoughtlessly grabbed handfuls of leaves to stuff into the bags was that she had also pruned the rose bush nearby and buried the thorny branches in the same pile of leaves.
As the thorn punctured my hand I couldn’t resist cursing the ground under my breath. Before I could feel guilty for my foul choice of words, I was immediately reciting scripture in my head and reminded of the pain-filled world we inhabit. Yes, my careless yard work incident had suddenly transported me into a moment of deep theological reflection.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (Gen 3:17-18).
As I continued to bag leaves — this time more cautiously and using a rake rather than bare hands — I made the following two observations:
1. The lingering, deep-seated effects of that primordial Fall are ever before us.
In a culture that all too often entertains utopian visions of human progress, we Christians need to remind the world that apart from the grace of God and the redemption project begun at Calvary and to be finished at Christ’s return, we are still working in a broken world full of painful thorns and thistles. Apart from divine rescue, the odds are stacked against us from birth.
2. We need to curse in the right direction.
When people encounter suffering in this life they often curse in two wrong directions. Many well-meaning Christians who have, I believe, a mistaken view of God’s sovereignty, ultimately end up blaming God for much of the pain and suffering in the world. If God controls EVERYTHING, they reason, then God is responsible for every circumstance — whether good or evil. Other people, especially those who leave God out of the picture, are left only to blame human beings for every unfortunate situation. While God is responsible at times and human beings at other times, there are many circumstances where we just need to curse the fallen world we have inherited. (Not to mention Satan and the spiritual powers of evil.) We are still living outside of Eden, and “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
When cancer steals away life in it’s prime, curse the Fall.
When earthquakes claim entire cities, curse the Fall.
When one loses a child in childbirth, curse the Fall.
Oh, how the reputation of God has been twisted by well-meaning people who try to find God’s mysterious providence behind so many natural evils that are so utterly contradictory to the character of God. And, oh, how many people’s lives have been ruined by overbearing burdens of self-imposed guilt and self-loathing for things outside of their own control.
So, the next time you find yourself wrestling against nature in the garden, let us curse the Fall and then turn our hearts and hopes quickly toward heaven remembering that God is a gardener, too. For although “all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom 8:22) we know that since that first Easter morning God has been laboring beside us as “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Rom 8:21).