By Kasey Van Norman
God really did command Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and warn them that to do so would bring death. But what Eve seemed to forget in her conversation with the serpent was what else God really said. “You are free. Free to eat anything and everything else. Free to create, work, have sex. Free to rest in the life-sustaining peace that because I am God, you don’t have to be.” (See Gen. 2:15–17.)
I think this is why God put the tree in the middle of the garden in the first place, there to remind us we are not meant to know everything, not designed to rule the universe or single-handedly give meaning to the world around us. We are not capable of rescuing, healing, or saving people. Instead, we have been given miles and miles of provision with one, loving promise—we are free not to be God.
On that dark, terrible afternoon of March 9, 2009, I laughed because life as I knew it was over. Death had finally come to the fear-made gods within me: perfection and punishment.
The perfect house, reputation, church work, and doting husband, all a ploy to keep myself and others distracted from the dark and twisty parts of me. The adultery, and every toxic, corrupt behavior leading up to it, was a way to punish myself for my past. My desires for perfection and punishment were conceived in fear and fed on shame and grew in the pride of believing that God needed my help.
The next time we want to dig our heels into the side of a pride mountain for the sake of perfection or out of fear of punishment, may we not forget he really did say.
God really did say that he alone is the measure of all that is true, good, and right in this world. He placed a tree in the middle of our lives to remind us of our mortality and his sovereignty over those attributes. He knew how devastated we would be when our version of truth, goodness, and justice proved to be ever-changing, misunderstood, and packed with impossibly high standards.
So we remember our freedom tree, the tree of God’s sovereignty, his full command over all created beings. We remember it each time we fail, disappoint, wound, suffer, feel rejected, and can’t fix it. We slam into it the moment we realize that even on our best days, we are still in need of saving.
Just as he did for Adam and Eve, he is doing for us even now. He walks and talks with us, moves toward not away from us, and calls us out of hiding. He does this through all of our relationships and experiences, in every degree of feeling on the human spectrum. God is using our stories to reveal himself to us. He is the “author of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and constantly working in our lives to make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
He wants us to connect our minds to our bodies and our bodies to his Spirit. He wants our personalities to take on his personality as harmoniously and perfectly as possible this side of heaven so that we are left with zero doubt how intricately we are tied to him.
The problem is humans insist on remaking God in our own image instead of embracing the image we are created in—God’s. So he places trees in our path all along life’s journey. Trees of pain, loss, offense, sinfulness, and rebellion. All there to remind us that he’s got this. Really.
Every fall down the mountain, from Adam and Eve’s bite of fruit to our own tampering with the forbidden, begins with our desire to be God rather than enjoy what has already been given to us in God. Consequently, any effort to fix ourselves, others, or the universe according to our version of truth results only in further separation from God’s truth.
Like Adam and Eve, we’ve been given this one life, our one story, to know and understand God’s grand, eternal purpose—the best story.
So it’s not enough to say that God uses our lives if he does not also design them.
What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design.
If God foresees cells mutating into malignant tumors, tremors developing a tsunami that will wipe out a village, a young Christian wife walking dangerously close to the edge of an affair, and he doesn’t stop it, what are we to say? When Satan and his demons are permitted to wreak havoc on this earth, bringing ruin to many, what are we to do? When an innocent, perfect son begs his father to rescue him from a horrific, terrible death that he does not deserve, and yet his Father does not stop it from happening, where are we to turn (Matt. 26:39)?
Although we are afflicted in every way, we are not crushed. Perhaps we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. We hold on to the treasure within us—the tree of freedom, reminding us that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us (2 Cor. 4:7–9).
We never reduce the depths of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God and his unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways (Rom. 11:33) to random evil or meaningless events.
We do not dare call God evil or sinful in his governing of the universe, because “his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.” He is a “God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4).
This is our story—the beginning of our end, when God takes his rightful place as the greatest love of our lives. This is the moment we finally take him up on his offer to be exactly who he says he is.
We all have past experiences we wish we could redo, undo, or hide altogether. In Nothing Wasted, counselor and teacher Kasey Van Norman shares how God revealed his specific plan for her life through the most unlikely, embarrassing, and painful seasons of her past. Her vulnerability invites you to discover God’s personal and purposeful design for your future, not in spite of your story, but through it.
What if the pain and mistakes of your past are exactly what God wants to use to redeem your future?
A difficult childhood, public infidelity, and a fight with cancer — Kasey Van Norman has walked a rocky road of regret and loss. Shockingly, God would take her back to move her forward, uprooting her undealt-with wounds, secret shame, and intimacy-sabotaging patterns of behavior. No longer running from her past, but instead, allowing herself to be defined by it, Kasey discovered a God more intentional and loving than she’d ever believed him to be. Today, she shares the truth that no part of our life story is wasted — but purposefully designed and used by God to shape who we are meant to be.
With vulnerability, sound doctrine, and humor, Kasey unfolds the brokenness in her own life, reminding us that a holy, sovereign God lovingly works, not in spite of our past, but through it. In this book, Kasey invites you to look at the most unlikely, shocking, and painful experiences of your past in order to embrace them as the necessary setup for your future. No experience or relationship has been a mistake. You are no mere byproduct of random events, and you do not need a do-over! Join Kasey, and take God up on his offer to weave together every confusing, disjointed scrap of your past in to his beautiful story of redemption.
Because with God, nothing is wasted. Learn more at www.NothingWastedBook.com.
Kasey Van Norman is a professional counselor, Bible teacher, and the author of the books and study series, Named by God and Raw Faith. Kasey writes and teaches about the love that redeemed her life from the shame of past abuse, addiction, infidelity, and, strengthened her through a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Kasey is the founder of Northway Farms; a non-profit serving homeless women in her community. She travels and teaches thousands each year as a ministry event speaker. She lives in College Station, Texas with her husband, Justin, and their two children, Emma Grace and Lake. Learn more at KaseyVanNorman.com
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