- Sonya Leigh Anderson
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of God, and deeply drawn to him. I was a twelve-year-old in pigtails when I fell head-over-heals in love with Jesus one summer at Bible camp. As a teen and into my 20’s my life was shaped by devotion to God. And yet, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s, a parent of three little boys, that I began to really understand what the Bible was about. And it changed my life.
I knew the Bible’s stories. I knew its commands. I understood the simple steps of sharing the Gospel. I knew about Creation and Fall and the great chasm separating sinful humans from a Holy God. And I knew about Jesus. His death for my sins and his resurrection opening the way for me to go to heaven.
I was a confident Christian. I was confident in my salvation, and I was confident, too, in my code of ethics. The Bible told me how to live my life. Its stories were examples of how good Christians live. And I liked being good.
Until I realized I wasn’t.
It was the fall of 2001. Right around the time of 9-11, and the crash of the Twin Towers, I had my own sort of crash. Long story short, God sent someone to look me in the eye and tell me point-blank I’d become a self-righteous Christian. A whole life of following rules and knowing the right answers—and this. A good hard look in a truth-telling mirror. And I was undone.
I had no idea what to do, and so I cried out to God. “What do you want?!” And He answered.
Stay here, and see what I’m going to do.
And what He DID was show me a story.
But first—before He showed me the story—He showed me His love. He overwhelmed me with love, like I’d never known before. From the moment He told me to STAY He lavished me with so much soul-saving love, I hardly knew what was happening. His love consumed me, in the most breathtaking way. He SANG over me at night. I’m not even kidding. For months. Years, even. I would wake in the morning with the sweetest sense of having been with God in my sleep.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.
I was loved. A love more exquisite than any human love I’d ever experienced. And that’s saying a lot. I was, after all, very happily married, and a MOM.
And then, He began to teach me. It took a while. A decade, give or take. But over the course of time God began to show me what the Bible was truly about. And it wasn’t at all the way I’d been taught.
God showed me a love story that started in a garden. Eden, which means, Delight. The Spirit of God hovered over darkness and chaos, and then God spoke, and there was order and beauty and everything good. God filled the the whole thing—land, sky, seas—with flourishing life. God’s design is LIFE. Come and eat, God said, from my tree of life.
He said this, of course, to His humans. The ones He created in His image, which is to say—the ones He had chosen to represent Him in this Eden Life.
But, then. The snake. The lies. You can be like God, knowing good and evil. Did God really say you couldn’t eat from the trees?
Muddled mess, and the humans believed it. The lie. (The Fall, as I learned it, from my gospel tracts.)
The humans fell. They were banished. If they had eaten from God’s tree they might have lived forever. But not now. Not this broken. The story would be shadowed by the darkness of death.
But that’s just the beginning.
As the story unfolds, God chooses a man, then a family, then a nation. A whole cast of humans given the chance to still carry out the Eden commission. To bring his shalom blessing—life the way He had always intended.
Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
But they can’t. They can’t obey. They can’t hold fast. They fall again. And again.
And here is where the story departs from the one I grew up with. Because as it turns out, the whole point of the story is about people who CAN’T.
And a God who still loves them. His love never quits.
Then—in a most unexpected turn of events—God becomes HUMAN and enters their mess. As Jesus. Finally, a human, who faithfully represents the image of God:
The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
But there’s more. And it’s a plot-twist so surprising, we’re still not sure what to do with this part of the story. Because what God wanted all along was
Eden-like humans who would restore the world with God’s flourishing life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
The breathtaking conclusion to this amazing story is JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE do together, what had never ever been done before.
If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17
They will reign in life.
Therefore choose life…