The first couple were given a well appointed place to live, a beautiful garden paradise. They never went hungry. They had more than enough of every variety of fruit to eat, some familiar and some I suspect we would not be able to identify; low hanging fruit, no toiling, no sweat, and likely no need for storage. Adam and Eve had it made. Then they lost it all with the exception of their relationship with God. Thankfully that was in tact, but the comforts of the life they had enjoyed slipped away from them. As tragic as this is, there is a principle in this narrative that could help us live a much better life; I would like to call this the Garden of Eden Principle.
Adam and Eve only had one thing to do to keep their place in the Garden; do not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything in the garden – the plentiful and delicious fruit, comfortable and picturesque surroundings, and easy maintenance in this paradise they called home – was theirs with only one small restriction; do not eat of the fruit of one tree. One tree mind you! To be candid, Adam and Eve lacked discipline and restraint in the small thing.
So here is the Garden of Eden Principle for our consideration: Discipline and restraint in the small things will help us to live a better life. Just like Adam and Eve, God does not ask us to do much in exchange for his blessings. Jesus said, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
It is the smaller disciplines that give us the edge in almost all Godly pursuits. The small restraints in aggregate give us some of the the biggest spiritual achievements over time. The smaller percentages differentiate between success and not as successful. Adam and Eve had one tree to stay away from! If they could have only wrestled down that one thing God asked them not to do they could have had a better life on earth. It is mind boggling because they had so much they could do! God only requires discipline, restraint and hard working faith in a few things to reap the benefits of the many things He has for us.
To be practical, think about physical fitness: it takes very little time and discipline each week to exercise so we can have the energy to participate in a more robust and vigorous life. About three hours, less than two percent of our time each week to feel better and possibly live longer is all that physical fitness really demands. Eating the right foods to stay healthy and to potentially mitigate lifestyle diseases; and still we are able to enjoy almost all the fruits and vegetables we want, and smaller portions of other foods that fill us up. Just a few foods to stay away from. Then there are relationship issues: colleagues, friends, family and even marriages are usually less than what they could be because of some small disagreement or difference. It’s usually not a big rift or problem. We should try to figure out what small adjustments can be made to make our lives with the people we really care about more harmonious and mutually beneficial. This will take some small changes, a little discipline and restraint in the way we react and approach them.
We can have a good life. A life in which we move forward more often than backwards. Where guilt and regret are mostly a result of yesterdays crummy experiences, viewed only in a distant memory of who we used to be and not what we are today. A life where our choices have more to to with who we really are and not what others wanted us to be, influencers who for a little while led us away from ourselves and the people who were important to us. A life in which we can get close and stay close to God, not so much guilt; and when we feel that prickling of our conscience because we have gone in the wrong direction by doing something unethical or even immoral we can find forgiveness and restoration from above. Our hearts can be clean and wholesome once again! We can make better choices today to sidestep many of yesterdays mistakes. We can have a good life and we can be better. The opportunities that make all of this happen are abundant, much more than the few times we are faced with choices that will take discipline and restraint, resisting unbridled indulgences that do not make our life what it is meant to be.