Early one morning a few weeks ago, I took my coffee out to our patio and watched the first beams of sunlight filter through the trees and ripple across the grass in the yard. The air was crystal clear and carried that clean, innocent smell that is exclusive to newborn babies and spring mornings. The birds were singing boldly. I felt a swell of gratitude and joy rise up within me. It was such a perfect morning. My eyes swimming with tears, I gazed around. Within seconds, my grateful gaze landed on an empty flower bed nearby.
“I need to get my flowers planted,” I thought; and immediately, my brain began calculating how many flowers I would need for that flower bed plus the one across the driveway. A few seconds later, I noticed that some of the lovely green foliage I had been admiring was actually weeds that had dared to creep into my landscaping.
“I need to pull those weeds,” I thought to myself. I went into the garage to fetch a pair of gardening gloves but could only find one glove – the left one of course. I sighed and cursed my daughter’s dog who had probably eaten the right one.
“I need to get a new pair of gloves,” I thought. And then, my brain slipped into a well-worn groove and began reminding me of all the things I needed to buy and do to get our yard into shape for summer. I needed to get all the flower pots out, I needed to buy potting soil, I needed mulch…. Suddenly, it seemed as if every square inch of our yard needed some kind of improvement made to it. I felt bad that I was getting such a late start in getting everything done. I felt a spurt of irritation as I recalled that winter had rudely hung around longer than it was supposed to. The joy and gratitude I had been feeling only moments before had dissolved, and in their place were heavy feelings of guilt and frustration. It was 6:30 in the morning, and I was suddenly tired.
Just as I was getting ready to trudge inside and start my list for Lowe’s, there was a rustle of leaves and a ripple of movement at the edge of the patio.
“That better not be a snake!” I thought in disgust.
As I ventured very slowly over to investigate, a scripture story popped into my head – the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I remembered how God had created all of the life in the Garden and had proclaimed it all “good.” I remembered how God had told Adam and Eve that they could enjoy the fruit from all of the trees in the Garden except the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they ate that fruit, God warned them, it would destroy them.
And I realized suddenly that I had been like Eve this morning, sitting on my patio with nothing but joy in my heart, full of gratitude for the goodness and beauty of creation. But just like Eve, I had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The patch of earth that was my yard had been created by God, but it was somehow no longer good enough for me. I had been created by God, but I was somehow not good enough either. My need to judge and criticize everything I saw, including myself, had poisoned my perfect morning.
By the time I reached the edge of the patio, the rustling noises had stopped and whatever creature had been there had disappeared. I went inside and started my list of things to buy and things to do. If I spent enough money and worked hard enough, I thought, maybe I could turn my yard into a kind of paradise.