Hawaii is often described as a paradise. It is a place that attracts millions of people each year to revel in its beauty and be lost in its grandeur. After experiencing Hawaii for the first time with my wife, I am inclined to agree with the perception. It was truly a beautiful place. There were a number of times when the landscape, the food, the wildlife took my breath away. Hawaii, for me, was certainly an experience in paradise.
In these moments, as I found myself reveling in the beauty and majesty of the Hawaiian landscape, I began to realize there was something deeper going on here. I experienced what felt like my soul longing for Eden.
I believe this longing for Eden is tied with a future-oriented hope of the coming Kingdom of God. I have heard many people talk about Eden as if it is a past event, something and somewhere that can never be reclaimed, but I believe that there is going to be another Eden. That is to say, another paradise that will be established when Christ brings about the inauguration of his reign.
When God created the garden of Eden, the goal was to create an environment for creation to live in paradise with its creator. Eden was paradise. And although none of us have experienced the fullness of this paradise, I believe that within creation, there are reflections of what Eden used to be. There are, even now, pieces of Eden throughout the world. There are remains of the magnificent garden that give us glimpses of God’s perfect creation that causes our souls to long for the paradise that is to come. That was my experience in Hawaii.
And so, I’ve entitled this post “Pieces of Eden” for a couple of different reasons. The first is that I am a HUGE fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. To spare you all from a nerdy tangent on video games, I will simply state that it is the perfect game for a historically trained individual. The second reason is that my wife and I were fortunate enough to visit four different Hawaiian islands. We visited Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Oahu. Each had its own distinctive charm and character. Each, in their own way, was a piece of what I believe Eden to have looked like.
One experience, in particular, caused a flurry of emotions within me. This happened in a Botanical Garden in Kauai. What hit me first was a sense of awe at the splendor that I was beholding. Then there was a sense of contentment as I sat in the garden, feeling the gentle breeze upon my face. Then there was overwhelming joy as I walked in the garden with my wife by my side. Lastly, there was a sense of sorrow as time caused us to once again be bound by a schedule. I wanted to linger a little more. I wanted to take in one last look at the majesty of the Kauai landscape, but it was eventually time to leave the piece of Eden.
Looking back on what I experienced in Kauai, I started to wonder what it is that made it so special to me. I racked my brain trying to figure out why that botanical garden caused so many emotions within me. Then I realized it. All of the emotions I was feeling were not separate sentiments, but all interconnected to one another. I was feeling a sense of longing. My soul was longing for paradise lost and paradise to come. I was blown away by the sheer beauty of Kauai. Somehow, my inner most being recognized it as what the original Garden must have been like. The contentment I felt walking through that botanical garden with my wife caused me to sense the presence of God, walking alongside us just as God did with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. My soul experienced a piece of Eden.
It is funny how so many places or things are described as experiencing “heaven on earth.” In fact, it is how travel agencies and companies get people to buy their products and services. Why is that? Why do people spend millions of dollars a year for the chance to experience heaven on earth? I think it’s because our souls long for something that is better than what we see. There has to be something better than the brokenness and darkness of our lives. And I believe there is.
Once upon a time, there was a garden. It was paradise. There, humanity walked in community with their creator, who loved them dearly. Then something went wrong. Humanity walked away from this love, from this community, from their creator. And we have suffered ever since. But there is good news. This was not the end. Our creator loved us so much that a son was born to make it possible to walk in community with our creator once again. Paradise may have been lost, but because of what Jesus has done, we can once again live in paradise with our loving creator. The pieces of Eden we experience here on earth are mere glimpses of the paradise that is to come. I can hardly imagine how wonderful that paradise will be.