We live in the desert. It’s not the sort of cactus-filled desert where Snoopy’s brother Spike lives (that’s east of us a few hours) but it’s desert nonetheless. That means that water is at a premium and people respond by using rocks and “xeroscape” gardening. Others use artificial turf. The other day, on a regular walk through the neighborhood, we noticed a fascinating phenomenon.
If there was one place where one might to expect not to see weeds it would be in a yard with no grass, in a yard covered with artificial turf. Nevertheless, as we walked past one of these astro-yards, there it was: a weed and grown up underneath the turf, found a seam, and popped through. On the same walk we saw artificial snow that, at first glance, looked remarkably like the real thing.
These two things are symbolic of a couple of things. First, if there is any place in North America where reality seems to be suspended, it’s Southern California. This may be the world’s capital for plastic surgery. It’s not unusual to meet people who are rather older than their face suggests. It’s not unusual to see senior citizens on bicycles and roller blades. The weather is usually so pleasant here that the effects of the fall seem to suspended.
Reality, however, can only be suspended for so long. That little weed illustrates that. Eventually even the best plastic surgery begins to show a little wear or, after repeated “touch ups” people become so stretched and plumped that they no longer look human. The reality is that this a fallen world and no matter how pleasant the weather (right now it’s 68F and sunny) or no matter how pristine the artificial garden, sin and the effects of sin find a way to show through.
The fall is a reality. We can cover its effects temporarily or we can treat them medically, but covering and treatment doesn’t change the basic reality. The effects of sin are pervasive and profound. We used to live in a garden that didn’t need artificial turf. We used to live in a perfect, weed-free garden. We didn’t need medical treatment. Most importantly we were right with God and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with him. Before us, had we kept covenant with God, lay the prospect of a sort of consummate communion that can’t be described easily. We did not keep covenant, however. We chose weeds, surgery, and death over eternal communion with God.
As we begin a New Year, let us keep before us the reality of sin and its consequences. We need also an equally firm grip on the reality of grace and salvation in Jesus. The incarnation is just as real as sin and the power of his divinity and righteousness for us is more powerful than the power of sin. As certainly as we chose to disobey, so surely did Jesus chose to obey. He felt all the effects of the fall and with the weight of our sin upon him he lived his entire life in the garden of God. He prayed, he sweat, and resisted the devil in utter obedience to his Father.
The power and effect of sin is great but the power and effect of grace is greater. Our Savior Jesus had the power of an indestructible life and he demonstrated that power on the cross, in the tomb, and in his resurrection. May the Father grant us grace to see reality for what it is but also to live this year in union with the risen Christ by the power of his Holy Spirit.