Where was God?
Have you ever wondered where God was when Eve was talking to the serpent? Oh, yes, God is everywhere—it’s called omnipresence—and so He was right there watching it all happen. But, really, why was God not visibly present when first Eve and then Adam bit off more than they could chew?
It wasn’t until after that infamous snack—between meals, no less—that the Bible says in Genesis 3:8, 9, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” As far as Adam and Eve were concerned, God wasn’t there until after the damage was already done.
It’s natural to wonder why He wasn’t there. But maybe there is a more important question. Perhaps we should instead ask, what kind of God would not arrive on the scene until afterwards? What kind of God would not be present at that crucial moment?
Answer: The same God that gave them freedom of choice and then respected their freedom enough to let them make mistakes.
When God told them to not eat from that tree (Gen. 2:16), He was trying to protect them ahead of time, but God knew the wisdom of allowing Adam and Eve the freedom to make choices on their own. That was the only way they could grow mentally and spiritually. God knew the wiseness of giving his earthly children the time and space to choose on their own without interference.
So what is God’s approach to parenting? He teaches His children, lovingly warns them, gives them instruction ahead of time and then steps back to allow them the freedom to make decisions on their own.
In the book Child Guidance, pages 225-228, there are thoughtful words of advice for parents. For example, “There are many families of children who appear to be well trained, while under the training discipline; but when the system which has held them to set rules is broken up, they seem incapable of thinking, acting, or deciding for themselves.”
Here’s another example: “The youth must be impressed with the idea that they are trusted. They have a sense of right, and they want to be respected, and it is their right. If pupils receive the impression that they cannot go out or come in, sit at the table, or be anywhere, even in their rooms, except they are watched, …it will have the influence to demoralize…. This constant watchfulness is not natural, and produces evils that it is seeking to avoid.”
As parents read this, no doubt, they must realize that this is an important matter. As a pastor, I realize how significant it is—because it is just like the God we see in action in Genesis 2-3. This is God’s parenting style for all of us; this is how He respects our right to choose: 1) He trains and instructs us ahead of time, 2) He allows us time and space to make our own decisions, and 3) He brings help and healing when things go wrong.
Why is it important to see this about God and act this way toward our children and to other people? God can run the universe anyway He likes, of course, but God desires the service of love that is freely given and so He grants us freedom of will. This is so important to Him that He will defend it at any cost. He absolutely refuses to be a prison warden.
I, for one, am thankful that He is this way. It inspires me to love and trust God more. Being in harmony with God in this matter, then, is what will enable those around us, including our own children, to think well of God and want a relationship with Him.