We Christians know Genesis 1:1, that famous poetic flourish that informs us of God’s inexhaustible creativity:
In the beginning God.
Yes, out of the long primordial silence and the deep void came an eruption of life, from the darkness an explosion of radiant incandescence. “Let there be light” crackled through the cosmos, and at the sound of God’s voice, Brother Sun and Sister Moon danced, forever endowing this world with blazing solar beauties and deep lunar mysteries. It was not good for water to be alone, so the Lord reached into the belly of the abyss — just as He would later reach into the belly of the slumbering Adam (Genesis 2:21-22) — and pulled out the dry land, giving the wild seas the companionship of something to crash into. Land stands up out of the depths as the blessing of demarcation and delineation. The Genesis 1 poem sets us down in a world of physical matter, a world of rocks and trees and skies and seas. There were seeds bursting forth and plants beginning their vertical pilgrimage skyward and reefs teeming with every kind of fish.
But before we race on, we must slow down and notice a very crucial detail in the text: the first gift that God gave humankind was the gift of place. The writer of Genesis said,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:15 ESV, emphasis added)
We should not be in a hurry at this point in the story. God gave Adam a vibrant place within which his life could unfold to flourishing. It was a garden place with a vibrant ecosystem, a place to belong, an all-encompassing place made up of particular places to find meaning and enjoyment. The creek running through that corner of the garden over there. The grove of olive trees to the south that needed tending if there was to be oil. The vineyard of grapes hanging fat on the vines, waiting to burst into the finest wines. The lush foliage, the natural herbs, the weeds needing to be pulled in the vegetable garden, the insects, the earthworms, and the migratory birds. The meandering brook that sings only by the accompaniment of rocks.
Here, Adam, receive My grace.
Here, Eve, is your place.
But now, for a brief moment, we need to observe and make explicit what God did not give the first family. He did not give them a transcendental spiritual existence that hovered above the humus, the holy ground beneath their feet. Adam and Eve were not simply eternal souls borrowing bodies for a minute until they could get to their real destination someday. Earth was not made to be a warm-up act, and humans were not set down here to do busywork until God could beam them up to the starship Enterprise that’s on its way to an immaterial Heaven.
We have been looking at the first pages of Scripture, but this would be a good moment to look at the last page to remember where this story is headed.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her Husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” — Revelation 21:2-4, emphasis added
The consummation of the story shows Heaven coming down. God’s dwelling place is moving into our space. He’s coming to dwell with us, right here, on this dirt. But we Westerners have been shaped by a couple of hundred years of “enlightened” thinking that would lead us to believe that the world and the flesh are of the devil and that only the spirit — the spiritual — is good. This is not a new malady among the human race, for the apostle Paul wrestled with the Gnostics in his own day; they believed that the physical world is intrinsically evil, and that salvation comes through the apprehension of secret spiritual truth. And we are their offspring. But we didn’t get this disembodied, anti-creational way of thinking from the God of all flesh or from the Scriptures He intended for our instruction. No, Adam and Eve were embodied beings. They were given a garden to work, not a manifesto of doctrinal formulas. And it wasn’t just any old garden. They were given this garden, called Eden, situated eastward, with a river flowing out of it that became the four great rivers of the region: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (Genesis 2:8, Genesis 2:10-14).
Here, Eve, receive My grace.
Here, Adam, is your place.
The Bible is our book, and as we look at the first page, we see that the first gift God gave humankind was the gift of place. And the contention of my new book, The Power of Place, is that His intention has not changed. God wants us to find home. God wants us to experience belonging. God wants us to care for our neighbors and our neighborhoods and the place we’ve been planted.
So, as you live out this day, imagine the Lord taking you — like He took Eve and Adam — and placing you in the garden of your own place. And be prepared because He’s going to say those famous words all over again:
Let there be light.
Go today and be a part of that light!
Written for Devotionals Daily by Daniel Grothe, author of The Power of Place, copyright Daniel Grothe.
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Let there be light! In you and through you. The Lord has placed you where you are on purpose and for a purpose. You belong to Him. He wants you to find your belonging in Him and your home in Him. Who are you caring for in your place today? Come share with us! We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily