The Irony of the Fall and the Garden
The irony of the Garden of Eden is that you can’t progress without falling.
We can all live our lives in some sort of ignorant bliss, and in fact, I know some people who ignore their shortcomings and fears, perhaps from some misguided notion that what you don’t acknowledge can’t be true. In fact, I’ve been one of those people before. I could have easily floated through life, continuing with some facade of being “perfect,” or at least pretty darn good.
I looked, on the outside, like I was doing all the right things – attending church, holding callings, being a role model for the young women in my stake, on and on and on. But I knew nothing about falling. The problem with that approach to life is that you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge is broken.
It wasn’t until I fell into a hole that I came to see just how much I needed the atonement. Sure, falling into a pit hurt, and it was humiliating and discouraging, and I felt shame – not because of guilt, but because I was sure others were now judging me. I felt all the things that come with a fall – fear of being judged, labeled as a “less-than,” scraped, bruised, wounded pride, a bit bloodied and a lot sore.
But had I not fallen, I never would have needed to take the outstretched hand of the Savior. I never would have known there even was an outstretched hand of the Savior to be taken. Had I continued naively in my personal Garden of Eden, thinking that the atonement was for everyone but me, I never would have known and learned how to use the atonement.
It wasn’t until I was at the very lowest point of my life – spiritually and emotionally – that I realized that I was actually at my best, because I was learning to rise up, to take the Savior’s hand, and to be rescued. In the depths of my humility, I was perhaps the most perfect I had ever been, because I realized I could not save myself. It wouldn’t have mattered how many “right” decisions I made, or high profile callings I held if I never learned how to access the grace of the atonement.
The irony of life is that you have to fall to be saved. You cannot be saved in your sins if you don’t even try to put them behind you, or climb up.
I wonder if we think that as people with the restored gospel we have some sort of monopoly on being “saved,” when the truth is, we have just as much need of being saved as anyone else. We must use the atonement; there is no other way back to heaven.
From Low to High
And to learn to use the greatest gift that Jesus offers – the atonement – we must come to the lowest point we have ever been in our lives. We must fall.
Then we look up to see a strong, warm hand, and kind eyes, and hear a voice, “Rise up. Take my hand, and I will show you the way.”
We all have our innocence of thinking everything is fine, “all is well in Zion.” (2 Nephi 28:21, 24-25.) Do not make the same mistake of thinking all is well that I did. Do not forsake opportunities to arise and accept the atonement.
“Today and forevermore God’s grace is available to all whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite. Jesus Christ has cleared the way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible to mortal minds.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” April 2015.)