Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

When the Grass Looks Greener

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‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf

does not wither’ [Psalm 1:1-3].

Last year we moved to a new town and a new (to us) home with more space and, Praise the Lord, a beautifully large backyard.  As a mama of four, with three of those being boys, I’m so grateful for the space for them to romp, to adventure, and to discover! One of the best features of our backyard (besides the lovely climbing trees) is the fact that it has a fence, a thing any mom of young children can appreciate.  Sure, it’s a rickety picket fence with flaking, brown paint that has seen better days, but it successfully (thus far…) contains our younger children.

I’m certain they could climb over the fence if they really wanted to, but they know it’s a boundary not to cross.  We’ve made it clear that the child who chooses to breach this barrier without permission will face serious consequences.  So, the physical barrier of our rickety fence serves as a constant reminder to stay inside where it is “safe.” Because they obey, I don’t have to worry about them chasing a ball into the street or wandering away when my attention is occupied elsewhere, and that gives me much peace.

Our aged brown fence keeps us all safe in other ways, too.  Strangers are unable to easily access the yard, especially since there is no gate at the front.  Stray dogs or animals cannot enter, either, if the back gates are closed.

But as much as I love our fence, it can only protect my children if they obey me by staying inside its confines.  The fence is no longer useful should they decide to venture outside of it!  And I’ve seen him, my youngest son, four years old, eyeing the gate from time to time.  He’s the sneaky one, too.  The child who is beside you one minute and vanished into thin air the next.  His disobedience is not overt, out-loud, hey-look-what-I’m-doing; rather, his disobedience is often silent, hidden, why-is-it-so-quiet-in-here? 🙂

Evidently our four-year-old is tempted by the “greener grass” on the other side of our fence.  He wonders what it would be like, that world outside of the safe boundary that his loving parents have set for him, not to keep him from something good or prevent him from having fun, but to protect him from harm from others or even from himself.

What would happen should he choose to leave the security and protection of our fenced backyard?  Perhaps nothing.  The first time he leaves, he might not experience any consequences at all.  In fact, we may not even catch him doing it.  Having experienced no negative consequences, he might decide to slip out unnoticed again….and again… and yet again… until one time, he happens to find himself suddenly facing grave danger, like Peter Rabbit who disobeyed his mother and found himself face to face with the dreaded gardener and his giant shovel.

And just as suddenly as the bunny faces that danger, he understands the reason behind the boundary, the one he crossed without permission, the one meant to protect him, not to ruin his fun.  But it’s too late. The damage is done and now he must deal with the consequences, whatever they might be.  He must run for his life and hope that he can be saved.

How often are we like that curious four-year-old, that disobedient bunny?  We fail to understand the reasoning behind the boundaries God sets up for us.  We fail to trust in the wisdom of our Father God, the One who created us, the One who knows all and therefore, knows what is best for us.

Isn’t that what happened in Eden?  God gave Adam and Eve a panoramic paradise to live in, a perfect relationship to enjoy, and a life of ease with all of their needs provided for.  And he gave them one rule. One.

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In the elementary age Sunday school class I teach, we’re learning about this rule.  But before we learned about the rule, the boundary, we learned about the Person who gave the rule.  We learned about how as the Creator of mankind, He had and still has the right to make decisions for mankind because we belong to Him.

We learned that as an All-knowing and perfectly loving Creator, He alone knows what is best for us.  We learned that His love was so great for His creation that He, the Creator of the Universe, the Most High, fashioned a beautiful world for us out of nothing, formed us in his own image, breathed life into us, and continued in relationship with us by walking and talking with us in the garden.

But then He gave us this rule, and like a curious child, we were faced with a choice.  Taste the forbidden fruit or avoid it like the plague?  Obey the God who planned out perfect paradise for us, or choose our own way?

I asked my Sunday school pupils why they thought God would even give Adam and Eve a rule about this particular fruit.  Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why not some other tree?  At first, they had no answer.

I then asked them why their parents give them rules or boundaries, such as: Don’t touch the stove! They quickly grasped that loving parents set rules in place to protect their children for two reasons: 1)because they know what is and isn’t safe and 2)because they love their children enough to want to protect them.  And then they understood.  They understood that God wasn’t trying to ruin Adam and Eve’s fun; He wasn’t trying to keep them from something good. After all, He did spend six days creating that perfect world solely for their pleasure! These young pupils saw that God must have a reason for setting a boundary around that particular fruit.

 

O taste and see that the Lord is good;

How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Psalm 34:8

You see, God knew what would happen if Adam and Even ate the fruit.  First of all, they would be demonstrating a desire to go their own way rather than depending on Him.  Second of all, once they experienced the knowledge of good and evil, they would no longer be innocent, no longer perfect.  The scripture records that before they disobeyed, Adam and Eve walked around naked and felt no shame.

Can you imagine?  Feeling no shame? Ever?  We’d be like toddlers running wildly naked after a bath, carefree and full of joy and exuberance.  Total freedom and wild abandonment.  We’d dance and sing and laugh.  That, my friends, is what God had planned for us.  That was His original desire for us: to live a free and abundant life of pleasure in a world of paradise!

But we chose our own way.  Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the whole world changed, even plant life and childbirth and the physical world changed.  They left the fence to venture out on their own and the consequences were immediate and disastrous: separation from God relationally (immediate), separation from the Tree of Life (leading ultimately to physical death), and after death a permanent separation from our Creator (lake of fire).

Imagine the sorrow of a Father God sending his beloved children out of the garden, knowing that for the time being, they would suffer and struggle, knowing also that one day, His only Son would pay a terrible price for their single indiscretion. One rule; one choice.  Imagine the sorrow of leaving that beautiful paradise, that haven of perfect joy and peace. Imagine the weight of knowing evil for the first time; life would no longer be carefree.

Even today, we often choose to leave the protection of boundaries that He sets forth for us in His Word .He provides boundaries about what we do with our bodies, what we put into our minds, and how we relate to others.  And when we leave for the “greener grass,” instead of becoming free, we become ironically enslaved.

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Like the four-year-old investigator, we might not see the danger lurking at first.  We might not suffer any harm, or so we think.  But each time we leave those boundaries that our loving Father set about us to protect us, we take a bigger risk.  And one time, we’ll have gone too far. We’ll be face to face with danger, with the Serpent, with Satan.  With His lies, he ensnares.  He promises freedom, but delivers slavery.

My sisters in Christ, why oh why do we choose to leave the protection of the fence?  The grass on the other side isn’t really any greener; in fact, it’s a hollow deception, a mirage. What lies on the other side of that lovingly placed boundary is

t…h…i…c…k  mud,

s

i

n

k

i

n

g

sand,

 miry clay.

That movie that we really shouldn’t watch or the book we really shouldn’t read doesn’t free us.  That person who is so attractive, but off-limits, isn’t good for us. That friend who entices us to leave the fence isn’t really an uplifting friend. That substance we so desire provides relief that is only temporary at best, not forever paradise. That choice to willingly disobey only brings us danger and heartache and burdens, so many burdens. And each time we venture out, we risk more. We risk a reputation, a relationship, a marriage, a child, a ministry, sometimes even our very lives.

The truth is, the only green grass we’ll find in life, the only abundant paradise, is right within our Father’s fence.  His boundaries exist for us, not against us; for our benefit, not our detriment;  for our protection, not our suffocation; and only because…

He.

Loves.

Us.

Like a parent looking after a beloved child, He gently guides us away from evil in this world, if we allow Him.

So, the next time you think you see a prime piece of green pasture just over the boundary, remember Who built the fence and why He built it.  Remember that what He most desires for you is paradise.  If you choose to stay inside the protection of the fence, the only thing you’re missing out on is the Serpent’s deceit and the slavery that follows.  Choose freedom.  Choose abundance.  Choose life.

like a tree

What verses help you stay inside of the fence?  Please share with the rest of us in the comments!

Only because of Christ,
Jen 🙂

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