“10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush.14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10-14)
It is is easy to skip past these verses in the creation account. They are filled with mention of specific places (rivers and regions) that do not mean to us what they meant to those who first read these words. And they are so specific! A quick Google of these rivers will show you where they probably were. Which means Eden is placed in a fairly specific locale.
When I was a child, my parents would say things that embarrassed me. Things I wish they hadn’t said. Usually such pronouncements were made in front of friends or family (hence the embarrassment!). Even now I can remember a few such occasions and I still feel those feelings when I recall those moments.
Looking back, however, I realize that my parents did not mean to embarrass me. Often what they said so long ago makes sense to me now although at the time I turned crimson. Sometimes I hear myself when one of children say “Dad, why did you have to say that? Couldn’t you just have kept your mouth shut?”
Sometimes we wonder why God preserved what we have in the Scriptures. Some burning questions just aren’t addressed. Some details that we crave are missing. And then we have the four rivers that branch out of the river that watered Eden.
I am reminded on this first day of a new year that some things God will reveal in time to us. Some things not in this life. Some details that made perfect sense to men and women long ago need our work to understand. And some things in the Bible, some stories just don’t make any sense. And when we are honest we might even confess we are embarrassed they made the cut.
I hope to begin this year with a deeper sense of humility and of longing. A humility that admits that I cannot and will not understand every word or story in Scripture – nor every event that this year will bring. A longing to understand and to grow closer to the One who holds the answers. Who speaks still. Who steps into my specific life and speaks to my specific situation even when I am embarrassed or shamed or convicted and wish that God has just kept quiet.
God of Creation, who made the heavens and the earth, who caused these words to be preserved for my instruction and my transformation: make me humble in this year as I admit what I do not know and live with what I cannot understand. Give me a longing to draw nearer to You, to dig deeper into the precious words left for us in the Bible. And even when I wish you would remain silent or would speak more… may I remember my earthly parents, too, and thank You for them as I thank You for knowing what to say to me and when to say it. Amen.