“…must not…”


“You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad.  You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

“Pass At Own Risk,” are the four little words on the sign marking the beginning of the granite breakwater protecting the picturesque harbor in Rockport, Massachusetts.  I’m convinced that the the town leaders really wanted to put up a sign that said, “Danger.  Do Not Climb on Rocks!”  However, knowing how much we hate to be told, “DO NOT,” or in the case of God to Adam in the Genesis quote above, “YOU MUST NOT,” the town officials reluctantly settled for the sign above.  “Pass At Own Risk” really means, “We wanted to put up a sign that said, ‘DO NOT CLIMB ON THE ROCKS BECAUSE IT’S EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.’  However, knowing such a sign only would make you want to climb on them that much more we settled on this one.  If you do get hurt, DON”T BLAME US!”  

Let’s face it, we hate to encounter a “do not” or “must not,” don’t we?  Seems like a paradox to me.  God created us with the gift of curiosity to explore, learn, and create.  However, one of the first times we decided to exercise that curiosity by reaching out to touch the hot, glowing stove some grown-up said to us, “No, don’t touch it!”  I’m pretty sure we’re all glad the supervising grown-ups stopped us!  Yes, but no — that’s the paradox, isn’t it?  What if we always ignored a warning?  What if we never took a risk in spite of a warning?

Growth comes in exploring, trying new things, and making mistakes.  Sometimes we have to try things for ourselves even if the sign says, “Do not.”  The walk out to the end of that breakwater might be so inviting that we’ve just got to try it even if there’s a sign warning us of the danger.  Other times we might risk a challenge even when there is no sign but our “gut” tells us there probably ought to be one.  We revel in the joy and satisfaction that comes with our successes – but what about the failures?  The answer is easy ——- blame someone else!  

Healthy growth in an individual’s life and healthy growth in relationships involves trial and error.  We risk, sometimes in spite of warnings to the contrary, and succeed or fail.  It’s easy to build on the successes.  It’s even possible to build on the failures if we avoid blaming others and accept the responsibility for our mistakes.  As long as we blame, we lose.  If we accept the responsibility for our mistake we can receive forgiveness and learn.  If we blame, we’re denied both possibilities.  Blaming is easier and almost reflexive.  Adam started the blame ball rolling with, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit and I ate it,” even though it was Adam that was given the instructions about not eating the fruit. 

The story of Genesis records that God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden, but the rest of the scriptures record how God kept inviting their offspring back into Divine relationship.  The first step back is always the same — avoid the blame game.  Accept responsibility, claim God’s forgiving love, and let it guide you for the rest of life’s challenges. 

I pray that God will give me wisdom to know which warnings to heed and which risks to take, as well as the courage to claim responsibility and forgiveness for my errors.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church

Boaz, West Virginia



Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

Check out my new video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on May 24, 2012.

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