The tree of life was there in the garden. It was available to us until God “cast us out of the garden” and closed us off from it, so the story goes. Why?
I think there is intention to the fact that He let us know that the tree of life was there and we could eat of it. Conceivably, we could have chosen to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, instead of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
(Notice that it was not a “tree of knowledge” but a tree of the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.)
I began thinking about these things one day as I was contemplating the slow unwinding of my own body. At the age of 56, I can feel it. I have creaks where I used to have full range of motion. Digestion used to work a lot better than it does. I get tired, but I can’t sleep. My eyes get dry and irritated. The list is getting longer as the years go by of the things that do not work as well as they once did.
This degeneration is the life we know. We see it in nature too. Unless we tend to our gardens, they get overrun with weeds and stop producing desirable things. Buildings and mountains crumble alike.
The second law of thermodynamics, as far as I understand it, suggests that energy evens out over time and will, eventually, no longer sustain dynamic change that is necessary for sustaining the world as we know it. The cycles that seem to work like clockwork will wind down and, eventually cease to wind up again.
Dust to dust is our destiny in this life, but, we sense that there is more. CS Lewis called this sense, Joy, “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” I call it a longing for something that we cannot grasp, and which, the longing of which, nevertheless, is more satisfying than any material thing. Mitch Teemley calls this same thing a hunger for a flavor that doesn’t exist.
The story of Adam and Eve is the story of a distant glimpse at Eden and of the possibility of the tree of life. But “we” chose to want to be like God, which we thought the understanding of the difference between good and evil would make us. We chose choice, the ability to captain our own ships, at the expense of Eden and life.*
We still choose choice, though we can denounce it. In denouncing it, we choose God. And that is where the longing for Eden, for Joy, for the flavor we cannot taste, comes in.
We are mired in this world in which we appear to captain our own destiny, but it is an illusion. We will die. Death will end our choice. Our knowledge of the difference between good and evil and our ability to choose between the two will lapse into timelessness. We will be stuck, at that point, with whatever choice we have made, or were making.
In the end, we are meant for eternity. This bubble of time in the sea of eternity is not our ultimate destination. This life is the illusion, and what follows, when we are freed from the bounds of time and space, is the reality.
That reality will either be in harmony with God, in His presence, enveloped in His love with His nature coursing through us, or we will be eternally burning in opposition to God, eternally set against Him, gnashing our teeth at God.
When the bubble of this life bursts and we are exposed to eternity, when we taste of the tree of life, there will be no going back. When we eat of its fruit, our eternity will be forever etched where we stand at that point.
* This is not intended to be a theological statement or statement of doctrine. I am not aiming at doctrine in this piece, or in many pieces that I write. I am angling for understanding, wrestling with ideas thinking through possibilities. Our God is a big God. We are finite and only finitely understand Him and the nature of reality and truth. I do not intend by this piece to undermine the sovereignty of God, to suggest that God did not choose us from before the foundation of the world or to suggest that we usurp God’s choice and sovereignty. Rather, this is how we see it, from our finite position in the world.