Of Eden and Reality

Mt. Gretna is one of my favorite places to walk. This idyllic summer retreat is chock-full of quaint, 100-year-old cottages featuring wraparound porches, decorative flourishes and well-chosen names. Whimsy abounds.

It’s abundant shade makes it a safe place for me to walk since I am allergic to the sun. And its hillside location provides a decent workout.



A few weeks ago I went to walk there after the summer season had ended. The Jigger Shop was no longer open. The Playhouse and Chautauqua buildings had gone silent. Even most of the houses stood empty. On a few porches scattered around the grounds sat a couple of individuals, working on computers or purusing the paper or reading a book.

I sighed. How lovely it would be to sit and work on one of these big wide porches, feeling the breeze, hearing the birds, luxuriating in the quiet and relishing the slow pace of life. I walked and longed for that kind of perfect life.

And then the gnats swarmed my face. I couldn’t walk a step without swatting them. I was careful not to breathe with an open mouth so I didn’t swallow one. I couldn’t keep one from flying up my nose though.

Every Eden has its snakes.

The presence of work trucks and ladders around Mt. Gretna was another reminder:

Everything decays.

There is no perfect place. And even if you “found” it, there is no way to maintain it.

Our world has been damaged by sin. And as lovely as we make the places we live, as glorious as the places we visit, as wonderful as the people we marry, nothing quite measures up to the yearning of our hearts.

Maybe it’s not supposed to.

Maybe it’s another avenue God uses to remind us that there is something better. There is a relationship with God that endures.

As Augustine said,

“You have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless,
until they can find rest in you.”

I was reminded of the chorus of Carolyn Arends’ song “Reaching”:

We are reaching for the future
We are reaching for the past
And no matter what we have we reach for more
We are desperate to discover
What is just beyond our grasp
But maybe that’s what Heaven is for

There will always be snakes. Or gnats. Or wildfires. Or hurricanes. Or gunmen. Or broken relationships. Or pain.

Until there isn’t.

Someday we will truly find our rest in him.

The secret, I think, is stop desperately seeking Eden in the here and now. Yes, we work to see God’s “kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We do justice. And love mercy.

But we are not surprised when the kingdom is not here yet.

Don’t let the gnats discourage you. Let them drive you to the one who will one day make all things new. Even me.


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