The story of Adam and Eve, in Genesis, tells us of a garden being vacated in sorrow, shame, and separation from the Creator God. This is the beginning of human sorrow, a picture of brokenness and despair, an account of the barrier raised between humankind and God. We imagine God standing at the entrance to the garden, also with pain and disappointment at the loss of these beloved disobedient children. And thus begins the story of our lives. Their struggle becomes ours, as we try to get back to the beginning, to the intimacy and communion with God. We imagine God standing in a place of perfection that we can not enter. We fail to see the sorrow of God, who misses us as much as we miss him.
In John’s gospel, we see another garden, where a broken-hearted Mary Magdalene meets a man whom she supposes to be the Gardener. Was the garden of the tomb a beautiful place, tended and cared for, as some cemeteries are, or a place of abandoned tombs and weedy plants? The gospel writer tells us only that it contained the borrowed tomb of a wealthy man. Artists portray it as a place of beauty, but what made it lovely on that day was the discovery of a stranger. He was not there to maintain or restore order to the garden. He was there to restore peace to Mary and the relationship to humankind that had been damaged in that first garden, centuries before. Here is God, standing with open arms, to welcome her –and us – back into intimate fellowship with the living, loving God of Eden, who promises to be with us into Eternity.
The broken-hearted people who left Eden were mirrored in the broken hearts of those who believed that Jesus had left them, leaderless and bereft. When He revealed Himself to them, their barren lives were infused with beauty. Centuries later, where ever we hear the voice of Jesus, and see his activity in our places in the world, the gardens of our lives are transformed. Eden blooms again, as we continue our saintly safaris into the life of God, accompanied by the God and Guide who knows the way.