Toil or Tend?

Several weeks ago, our small group was meeting and we were discussing how Jesus brings us purpose in this life.

The conversation quickly shifted to how we often find our identity in our work. Ever been there? I know it is a little too close to home for me.

Ten years ago, I was a husband, a father and a pastor. Then all those things were either gone or different. I was no longer a husband. Being a father to my kids was made more challenging by distance. I was no longer a pastor. I had found my identity in all those things and in a blink of an eye, they all changed. I remember thinking – “I have nothing left. Every part of me has been dismantled.”

Romans 8:28 felt like a long way away at that moment. I wasn’t asking, “How would God?” I was asking, “Could God?”

In Genesis 1/2, God had given Adam and Eve authority over everything He had made. Everything was subject to them. After the “incident” however, there were new rules. The sin of Man had subjected everything in Creation to the impact of their sin. Where God had left Adam and Eve to tend the Garden he had made before sin, now – they would find the land in rebellion against them. They would have to toil to get the ground to yield food to eat.
Genesis 3:17 says,

And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 

New Living Translation

Jesus entered the toil. He entered the spaces where we scratch and claw for everything we get. He experienced the hardness of this life we live and he experienced the death that that toil produces.

He did it – so we can experience real life. So we can have our old identities back. The ones we lost when sin entered the picture. Adam and Eve were children of the King. They were assistants to the Master Gardener. They were made to worship Him and tend the Garden. When we experience the grace and salvation that Jesus brings, we get that back too. We transform back into our original selves. We become Children of the King – Heirs to the Kingdom.

Ten years ago, I spent a long time contemplating who I was and what I had left. God used my brokenness for a Romans 8:28 moment. He reminded me that above everything else, I’m a Child of the King, an Heir to the Kingdom.

That leads me to this conclusion – That’s it. That’s our identity. In Christ, all the other things else we get to do are simply garden assignments for seasons. Garden assignments are given by the Master Gardener and he may choose to reassign us at any moment.

in John 15:1, Jesus describes himself as the True Vine, God is the Gardener. How and where we grow on that Vine, in the Garden is up to Him.

Now, I’m a husband, a father and a pastor…again. Most of all, I am a Child of the King, and Heir to the Kingdom. The other titles are garden assignments, not identities. Nothing matters more than who God says we are.

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