Banished from Eden

The following is a guest post by Luke Larson

“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.” Genesis 3:23 (NLT)

I remember one time when I was younger some friends and I had a sleepover, which was a pretty regular occurrence at that stage of life. Our usual thing was to stay up late, chips and soda in hand and watch funny movies or play video games. But this time we had a different idea. We decided it would be more fun to take a couple gallons of gasoline and play with fire. We found some plastic swords and had flaming sword fights, we lit a tennis ball and a football on fire and played catch, I even made a flamethrower using a super soaker. It wasn’t until later that I realized the stupidity of having a gas-filled plastic tank on my shoulder while holding a flame to the nozzle. It was only by a miracle I walked away from that night with my ridiculously good looks intact.

The strange thing was, it was invigorating. I wanted to do it again.

The next day I went home and hung out with my family like it was a normal day. However, it wasn’t a normal day. I had done something wrong and I knew it. I didn’t realize at the time, because I was pretty sure that I was as smooth as they come, but mom and dad knew I was guilty too. They didn’t know what I did exactly, but they knew I was guilty nonetheless. Our relationship felt different, there was suddenly a barrier between us that wasn’t normal. They confronted me about why I was avoiding eye contact and why I seemed distant. I cracked immediately, and after a long conversation about how dangerous that was and how I could have been hurt, I found myself grounded for a month with a long list of chores to keep myself busy. 

I felt like my freedom was taken away. I felt like the punishment was far greater than the crime. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. Right? 

After my disappointment subsided, I began to see a bigger picture. I remembered all of the other times I had been grounded. I could see a pattern that part of me always knew was there.

Punishment and consequence serve as ditches on either side of the road of life. This is true all throughout life, but when you are a kid your parents deliver these judgements. When you grow up, the world does. The main difference is this: your parents love you, the world doesn’t. Not only had my parents been alive a lot longer than I had, they also knew me better than I knew myself. They could see my blind spots and my tendencies to move too fast into them. They could see how my choices would play out over time, I had no such insight. 

There are three elements to this story. My choices, the consequences for my choices, and my parents deep love for me.

I made a choice that night to play with fire.

The consequences of that choice involved being grounded, a long list a chores and the feeling that I disappointed my parents. Now what if they had just decided that there was nothing wrong with what I did? I wouldn’t have been grounded, my list of chores and my relationship with my parents would have remained in the ‘normal’ category, and everything would have been ok… At least for a while. At some point though, my misunderstanding of what appropriate behavior was would have gotten me into a world of trouble, and the people deciding the punishment would not be so kind as to simply ground me for a month. Although punishment and consequence from parents might seem like an affront to our freedom, it is actually a great mercy.

The third element to this story is my parent’s deep love for me. No good parent enjoys punishing their children, but deep love cares more about securing a future than avoiding occasional temporary pain. 

Why do I tell you this story? Because it is not much different from the story of Adam and Eve being banished from Eden. Their story has the same three elements. Their choices, the consequences of their choices, and their Father’s deep love for them. Many people see God as a deliverer of judgement for judgement’s sake. You might hear a story like Adam and Eve’s and see only his anger. Maybe your perception of God has been mis-shaped by your parents, your friends or someone else. But if you can put everything on the table and recognize the human tendency is to lean more towards judgement than mercy, you might allow yourself to see God in a whole new light. Let’s look at the context around Adam and Eve’s punishment.

Genesis 3:21-22 (AMP) 

21 The Lord God made tunics of [animal] skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), knowing [how to distinguish between] good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take from the tree of life as well, and eat [its fruit], and live [in this fallen, sinful condition] forever”

Looking at the context, God wasn’t delivering judgment because he was angry. He was only thinking of his children’s future. They made a choice, and the consequence of that choice was deep shame and guilt and distance from God. I’m not sure why God placed two trees in the Garden that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from. Maybe God intended to share the fruit with them someday. But the truth is He gave them far more than He withheld. But instead of gratitude, they chose selfishness and pride. God recognized the new fallen nature of his children and had to act to secure a future for them. Had they also eaten from the Tree of life, they would have essentially been in what we know as ‘hell’; Living forever in their sin. God would not make their decisions for them, but He would certainly go to great lengths to protect them from this fate. 

Genesis 3:24 (NLT)

After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

In blessing, trial and consequence, God is always looking out for your future. His love is deeper and more real than anything you have ever known. I hope this example encourages you to dig into His word yourself and look for examples of His love. If you do, I promise you will be blown away as you see God for who He truly is; A loving father who is generous in blessing, faithful in trial, and merciful in consequence.

There Is Always Tomorrow

Right when I clocked out at 5pm, I left the house and headed to Aldi. Even though Luke was picking up a Walmart order for us, a few items were apparently out of stock. So off I went to grocery stop number one.

It was a mad house. In the parking lot, everyone was driving fast. Even in the store there was this feeling of “rushing”. There was an abnormal amount of people in line to get to the cash register. To be honest it felt like the start of the Covid pandemic all over again. As I walked around the store I wondered if I had missed some important news headline.

Target was no different. People rushing here, rushing there. Long lines. I didn’t know if it was me or everyone, but I couldn’t get myself to relax.

On my way home I tried breathing slowly in order to calm myself down…but was almost cut off by a semi truck cruising through the roundabout ahead of me without even tapping the breaks. A semi.

What on earth? It was like the world had gone crazy. And maybe it was just me. I don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that I went out right at 5pm.

I’ll try not to do that again.

All the while I just kept feeling like the day was a waste. Work was just average. I was tired and irritable. I really just wanted to go to bed. I kept thinking, what’s the point of today anyway?

But the whole time a conversation I had with a friend a few days prior was on my mind. We talked about how God loves us on an individual level, and how sometimes that’s hard to really come to grips with. But just as I told her then, I still believe and know that he does. And I want everyone to believe it as I do – even if I’ve only just begun to grasp that incredible reality.

So if God loves me, how was that to affect the weird situation of having a dumb day and a rushy rushy grocery shopping experience?

I guess I don’t know. But it did bring me comfort knowing that he makes insignificant days more significant, simply because he sees me and is with me. Maybe the day didn’t amount to a whole lot, but he saw it all. That makes it feel a little more purposeful. And maybe if I would have slowed down a little bit longer, I could have learned something meaningful while I ate my green olives straight out of the jar before heading to the next stop.

But tomorrow is another day. And another opportunity to take it a little slower and not get caught up in the chaos around me.

Tomorrow will be another opportunity to start my day off on the right foot.

Tomorrow will be another opportunity to strive a little less, and depend on Him a little more.

– Kristen Larson

Pain Doesn’t Mark the End of Something Good

Whenever I’ve heard about epic wipe out stories, I’ve always assumed that adrenaline took over and no pain was felt until a few minutes after the fact. I always assumed people just sort of blacked out until it was all over. 

But that wasn’t my experience. I felt pain the moment I lost control.

It was a beautiful day. Absolutely perfect. The skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was just a hair on the cool side. The trails were dry. Everything pointed to an epic ride.

The trees towered over us as we entered the trailhead. Dad and Mom led the charge in their Wildcat, I followed on my Honda Sportrax, and Luke closed up the rear on his Yamaha Big Bear. Dragonflies and butterflies were literally everywhere. 

Right out the gate, this was the most beautiful trail I had been on. Granted, this was exactly the 4th trail I had ever been on, but it was the most beautiful nonetheless.

I was feeling good and ready to settle into a nice long day of riding, when I noticed my parents easily glide over a lopsided drop in the trail ahead of me. Their car-like vehicle had no problems, and I doubt they even noticed it as they passed. But I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was moving too fast. I didn’t have time to slow down. 

I rose to a standing position in hopes of absorbing the movements with my legs, but it wasn’t enough. I hit the drop at an angle and lost control. As my four wheeler tore up a steep incline to the right, I tipped sideways, released my grip, and fell to the rocky trail – hitting my head and twisting my hips as the wheeler ran over my left leg.

I can remember each moment of that wipe-out in hazy/clear detail – if that makes any sense. It was both a blur and yet completely vivid.

I laid there on my left side for a few moments dazed. I had just experienced my first ATV accident.

I rolled onto my back to find Luke next to me. My head was pounding, and my whole body hurt. I pulled my knees up, alleviating the short-lived fear that maybe I was paralyzed. I did a quick mental check, and was certain nothing was broken. I was just in shock.

Having noticed that Luke and I were no longer following them, Dad shut off their UTV and came running back. As Luke helped me up, I assured them both that I was ok, I just needed a few minutes to get my bearings.

Some test-walks around the area proved that I was overall fine, but it did hurt to put weight on my right leg. Sitting on my ATV hurt as well, but was far more bearable than walking. My immediate thought was to turn around, pack up, and begin the two hour drive back home. But Luke was so sweet…he told me that we could absolutely head home, but if I was well enough to ride, he believed I should keep going. He told me that now is the best time to get back on the horse and get past the fear. We can take it as slow as I needed.

As we discussed our next steps, my eyes wondered to my Dad. I grew up on the stories he told me about off-roading with his Jeep Wrangler and all kinds of other outdoor adventures. He’s not a stranger to wipe outs. But he’s still out here doing what he loves. That inspired me.

I was shaken, but Luke’s wisdom and my dad’s adventurous spirit spurred me on. I knew in my heart that if I were to turn around and go home, this would be my last time out on the trails. And I knew that I didn’t want that to be the case.

The next hour of riding was simply scary. I was tense. Every bump and pothole had me clenching my teeth. I had to intentionally keep myself from crying. Before this, riding was care-free and exciting. Now it was a slow go with the subtle threat of disaster. In the matter of about thirty seconds, everything had changed.

We stopped for lunch and took about an hour break. Mom and I went for a little walk to keep my body from getting stiff, and Luke and Dad got to grilling hot dogs. It was getting harder to walk, but being off the wheeler helped my head to feel better and my nerves begin to calm. By the time we finished our meal, I was in a new place mentally.

As we fired up the machines and got going again, I approached each turn, climb, and descent with a new sense of care and caution. Sure, I was going slower than I usually would…but I was beginning to appreciate how slight shifts in my body weight affected how my ATV maneuvered. Before my spill, I was all about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. I loved the rush, the feels, the adrenaline. But now, I surprisingly started to enjoy a more technical, nuanced ride.

The beauty of ATV riding is that you can ride as a group, and yet have plenty of time alone with your thoughts. During that second half of our ride, with the only sound being the muffled engine through my helmet, I silently thanked Luke for encouraging me to push through the pain and fear. And I prayed – a lot. I prayed that God would keep me safe for the remainder of the ride. And he in turn started up a dialog with me, gently telling me that a setback isn’t the end. Pain doesn’t mark the end of something good. Fear shouldn’t hold me back from moving forward.

My MO has long been to give up when things get hard. I’ve given up on plenty of things. I’ve given up on plenty of relationships. I’ve given up on plenty of opportunities. All because they got hard. What if I would have given up and gone home that day? I would have sold Lil’ Red, and my career as a hobby ATVist would have been over. And a piece of me would have died. My sense of adventure. My love of a physical challenge. A wall would have been built up that would have held me back for the rest of my life. Not only in the one area of ATVing, but in other areas as well. It would have been another mark of failure.

Instead, as the sun was setting and we made our way back to the trailhead, God invited me to surrender the pain and be ok with its existence. In order to do the things he’s calling me to do, there is going to be pain. There are going to be setbacks. But instead of calling it quits, I need to trust him and push through to the other side.

Despite my bruised body, it remains my favorite ride to date. The entire day somehow felt sacred. God was with me the whole time, and he didn’t let a single moan or moment of fear go to waste. He taught me some valuable lessons. 

And if the lessons weren’t enough, we had some of the sweetest times with my parents whenever we would stop for a break. And, believe it or not, my heart was filled with joy. There was so much laughter.

The pain that day taught me to

  1. Take things a little slower. Speed isn’t everything. I tend to speed past a lot of things when I should be paying close, careful attention. Both to the beautiful details and potential dangers.
  2. Setbacks don’t mean it’s over. They’re discouraging and painful, but they’re also a part of life. The best is before us if we continue to move forward.

Somehow, I feel liberated after that day. I feel a fresh new courage bubbling up inside me.

 Pain doesn’t mean failure. Pain doesn’t mean God is distant. Pain is a very real and effective tool to bring about a new perspective, hope, courage, and joy.