Summary: When you can’t go back to Eden head instead for Zion.
When You Can’t Go Back to Eden
Thirty years ago (Jan. 1972) there was an unusual news story about a Japanese soldier found in the jungles of Guam who had been in hiding for the past 28 years. His name was Shoichi
Yokoi, he was 56 years old, a sergeant in the Japanese army, who in obedience to his emperor had evaded capture by the enemy since 1945. He had been waiting for his countrymen to come and retake the island and rescue him but instead two hunters found him wearing a pair of burlap pants and a shirt he had made from the bark of a tree. One reason the news story caught my
attention was it made me think of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Like Yokoi, Adam and Eve lived in a jungle-like island all to themselves with weather and food and plant life
abundant enough to survive and rather comfortably at that even without all the modern day
conveniences. Both worshipped their god with great devotion. For Adam and Eve Jehovah, God Almighty, had created an idyllic setting giving them charge over all the animals and plant
life with only a restriction on the tree in center of the Garden- not to eat of its fruit. And similarly Yokoi lived in his familiar jungle setting remaining faithful to his emperor’s command to avoid at all cost capture by the enemy.
But something happened in Yokoi’s Garden of Eden just as it did in Adam’s. Some sly, subtle serpent managed to convince Yokoi after 28 years of hiding to allow himself to be discovered.
And as soon as he eats of the fruit of captivity, he discovers all kind of new knowledge:
--the war with the Allies is over it’s been over for years
--Japan has a democratic government that has replaced emperor rule
--the US and Japan are now friends instead of enemies
You would think that Yokoi would be glad to hear such news but like Adam and Eve who learned after eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they were naked and felt ashamed, Yokoi stood before the cameras of the world weeping, feeling ashamed and saying to the reporters:
“my failure to serve fully his majesty the emperor is a great shame to me, I should have died
rather than have been found.”
And like Adam and Eve, Yokoi was now banished from his Garden of Eden and forced to make
a new life for himself in a place no longer isolated and idyllic.
At first glance this biblical comparison to an old news story may appear trivial and non-important were it not for the fact that the same thing is happening to you and me throughout life.
Take Karen the high school senior graduating this June: good grades, popular in her class, active in school sports and extra curricular activities with a good home life; she’s happy and secure in her Garden of Eden that will change dramatically as she is graduated from high school and must
find a new “garden” to dwell in be it a job, college, or the service.
Or what about Frank who has had the good fortune to work for the same company for 25 years; it’s been a good paying job and he has found happiness and security in his work, he knows the town, the people, the plant; his daily routine is familiar and comfortable to him. But this month he retires, sent away from his Garden of Eden and like Karen a certain innocence will be
shattered as he moves into a different kind of world with a different kind of lifestyle.
And then there’s Alice married to Bill for 32 years- not the best marriage but not the worse either. They know each other like a book right down to how many pills she takes each day to
how many steps he walks to the garage. But last week Bill died and suddenly the security
of being close with some one for years, sharing the same circle of friends and activities,
unaware of this or that because Bill was never interested so they didn’t go or find out. Now like Yokoi or Eve, Alice must leave the security of her Garden for a new way of life.
It is the question of the sermon title: when you can’t go back to Eden where do you go, what
do you do?
The answer is simple, and we all know the answer because all of us have at one time or another for one reason or another been expelled or taken out of our secure Eden, and what did we do about it?
We went right out and began to create another Garden of Eden to live in. Karen went to college and had just as much or perhaps more happiness and security there as she did in high school.