Between Two Gardens
Have you ever had a perspective changer? An ah-ha moment where what you thought was happening wasn’t at all what was happening?
Maybe it was that time you were just sure that your friend was hiding something from you, was betraying your friendship. And you stewed. And stewed, convinced your friendship was over. Only to discover that she’d been planning your surprise birthday party (insert face-slap emoji).
Or maybe it was the time you knew you’d offended a co-worker because she hadn’t talked to you all day. You replayed in your mind over and over every interaction you’d had the past week, unable to figure out what you’d done, but you beat yourself up nonetheless. Only to learn later that her mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she was too wrought with fear and grief to talk to anyone.
Nothing in either situation changed. Only our perspective. We’d only been seeing things from our narrow point of view. But as soon as we stepped out of our own story, out of our own perspective, we were able to see the bigger picture and get the truth.
This first chapter of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, called “Between the Two Gardens,” is about just that — getting perspective in the midst of our disappointments. Specifically, God’s perspective.
To do that, we must first recall that Lysa uses the word disappointment as an all-encompassing description of our life’s pains — big and small. I’m beginning to see that as I get to the root of my feelings and emotional pain, there’s almost always some form of disappointment there.
Lysa elaborates on her experience and understanding of disappointment, saying that it “frustrates and exhausts us” (page 3). Disappointment —
“It’s that feeling things should be better than they are. People should be better than they are. Circumstances should be better than they are. Finances should be better than they are. Relationships should be better than they are.
“And you know what? You’re right. Everything should be better than it is. It’s no wonder that I’m exhausted and that you are too” (page 3).
“The disappointment that is exhausting and frustrating you? It holds the potential for so much good. But we’ll only see it as good if we trust the heart of the Giver” (page 4).
What we’ll discover as we read further into this book, deeper into Lysa’s story, is that she’s not handing out empty platitudes here. She’s walked some of the hardest, deepest pain life can dish out, and what she’s discovered is that to get out of this loop of “it’s not supposed to be this way” mind set, we have to make ourselves see the bigger picture, to see things from God’s perspective. And, we need to know God well enough to trust Him.
Did you notice that Lysa also describes disappointment as a gift from God? But when we’re in the midst of it, disappointment does NOT feel much like a gift. In fact, we will usually look at disappointment as “proof that God is withholding good things from us” (page 4).
Not as a gift.
Yet when we’re living the pain of disappointment, Lysa encourages us to try to “understand what’s really going on” by taking a step back and viewing disappointment “in the context of God’s epic love story” (page 4).
She knows we need a different perspective when life’s disappointments are drowning us, and instead of starting with questions about WHY things are happening to us, we need to be “equipped with truths through which we can process them” (page 4).
In other words, to get this perspective, we need to know God’s story. We need to know God’s character, His heart for us. And that means we need to open up God’s Word to get His answers and His ways.
Lysa has us open up the Bible to the very beginning — Genesis, where we are told that the “human heart was created in the perfection of the garden of Eden” (page 4).
Can you picture what that must have been like? What does that kind of perfection look like?
No war or conflict — only perfect harmony.
No tension in the family — only perfect peace.
No shame or reason to hide — only perfect confidence and acceptance.
No hunger, no thirst — only perfect provision.
No loneliness, no boredom — only perfect fulfillment and purpose.
No separation from God, no doubt of Him — only the perfect presence of God.
The garden of Eden “was paradise with unique intimacy where God would interact in direct relationship with Adam and Eve” (page 6).
Push pause and let this sink in — “the human heart was created in the context of the perfection of the garden of Eden. BUT WE DON’T LIVE THERE NOW” (emphasis added, page 6).
All these feelings that it’s not supposed to be this way…they come from a heart that longs for an intimacy with God and perfection. And that’s why we toil in the soil of disappointment so often.
Keep reading God’s Word, and you’ll discover it’s a love story! God loves us so much that He isn’t leaving us where we are. Since the moment Adam and Eve sinned by choosing to do life their way instead of God’s way, God has been implementing a plan to redeem what went wrong.
He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to earth — to live among us, to feel everything we feel, to experience every bit of the life that earth has to offer us humans, to suffer and die for OUR sins, and to defeat death once and for all by coming back to life. All so that one day, one glorious, beautiful day, that perfect garden will exist again.
Have you ever noticed that in Revelation 22, the NIV (version of the Bible) describes the scene as “Eden Restored?” I encourage you to read that chapter and look for all the ways the garden of Eden is restored. It’s no coincidence that the Bible opens and closes in gardens. It’s God’s way of showing us that He has a plan — that He loves us and is restoring us to His original intent (for more on this, see this Epic of Eden post).
Let’s remember this is a love story we’re living in. As hard as it is to say, without life’s disappointments, we would never long for that restoration. We’d never “desire the hope of our True Love if lesser loves don’t disappoint” (page 8). Our discontent, our pain pushes us to seek God and that place where we can have that perfect intimacy again.
Oh, that garden!!
In the world as it is — this middle place where we live between the gardens — there is a “constant threat to our deep feelings” that can become an entry point for deeper things like depression and anxiety (page 9).
And a nagging doubt of the goodness of God.
Lysa brilliantly points out that we need to see “all those harsh realities aren’t the end…. Not a place where we are meant to wallow and dwell. Rather the place through which we we will have to learn to wrestle well” (page 9).
This phrase of hers, “wrestle well,” has been resonating within me for a few weeks now, and it’s significant. I’m such a feeling person that every time disappointment happens, I risk my feelings taking over and dominating my decisions and responses to people, to life. I’m trying to memorize what Lysa says next,
“…to let my feelings be the only voice will rob my soul of healing perspectives with which God wants to comfort me and carry me forward. My feelings and my faith will almost certainly come into conflict with each other. My feelings see rotten situations as absolutely unnecessary hurt that stinks. My soul sees it as fertilizer for a better future. …To wrestle well means acknowledging my feelings but moving forward, letting my faith lead the way” (page 9).
In the study guide, Lysa asks, What are some feelings that need to be balanced with the biblical truth you’ve learned this week?
What might moving forward in the midst of those feelings look like? How can you let your faith lead the way? (study guide, pages 32-33)
For me, I need to balance my cynicism with God’s hope and grace. Too often lately I catch myself rolling my eyes or making snarky comments that don’t help anyone or anything. I’m learning that if I stay in His Word, listen to worship songs that settle my heart and feed me truth, and make it a practice of sharing my heart and struggles with trusted friends who will love me enough to challenge me to be better, then my cynicism greatly lessens. Amazing, that.
And, for me in the moving forward, I know I need to look for the source (pride, despair, false assumptions) of my feelings and then surrender all those feelings (and their sources) to God, asking Him to show me His way and what my role is. I know I need to trust Him more!
Oh, how I long for Eden Restored!
I can’t wait for the day that there will be no more disappointments — when “there will be no gap between our expectations and experiences” (page 10).
I can’t wait for the day that I won’t need to wrestle well between my feelings and my faith because in the new Eden, “there will be no competing narrative about God’s nature” (page 10). We will have no cause to doubt Him. We’ll only have that blessed, intimate, perfect relationship with Him!
And, we won’t need to wrestle well because we “will be well. Whole. Complete. Assured. Secure. Certain. Victorious. And brought full circle in our understanding of truth” (page 10).
But today — today, we need to recognize our need for this wrestling.
We have feelings. They’re real. But what I learned some time ago — they’re not always true. Too often our feelings are not based on truth or reality. And, even when they are, those feelings threaten to take us over.
So, if we stay rooted in God’s Word — His love, His grace, His truth — we’ll remember where we are, and we’ll look for His perspective. We’ll seek out His healing love. We’ll trust He only wants what is for our good.
And that, that is how we will live well and wrestle well in this middle place between the two gardens.
Living in awe of our loving God,