May 28, 2015 • Life for Leaders
Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Years ago, my family and I visited Sequoia National Park in California. The highlight of this trip was seeing the Giant Sequoia redwoods, after which the park is named. These trees are awe-inspiring, both for their beauty and their size. The largest redwood in the national park is the General Sherman tree, which towers above the forest at 275 feet in height. It is also 25 feet in diameter, with an estimated age over 2500 years.
As my family and I ambled among the giant redwoods, drinking in their exceptional elegance, I noticed a teenaged boy walking along with his family. His eyes were transfixed, not by the trees, but rather by his Game Boy device. (Today, it would be his smartphone.) He was engaged in some sort of video game that demanded his full attention. I was both fascinated and distressed by this boy’s apparent unawareness of the extraordinary beauty all around him, so I continued to look his way every now and then throughout our tour of the big trees. Sure enough, as near as I could tell, he never once lifted his eyes to gaze upon some of the most beautiful and astounding of God’s creations.
As I think about this boy today, I feel sad. My sadness is not just for him, though. I feel sad for so many others who are just like him. I would confess there are times when I am one of these people. I can get so wrapped up in whatever is demanding my attention that I neglect the beauty of God’s creation. Sometimes I’m caught up in work. Sometimes I’m blinded by worry. Often, what keeps me from delighting in beauty is my ever-present hand-held device. I don’t have a Game Boy, but I do have a smartphone that calls to me its siren’s song.
I’m not going to go on a rampage against technology here. My phone is not the problem; I am. My phone simply enhances my tendency to get so focused on life’s challenges and temptations that I miss the beauty of the world, both natural beauty and that produced by human hands. But I am not helpless. God’s Word reminds me that God created trees and, by implication, the rest of nature, to be “pleasant to the sight.” The people of God help me to delight in beauty, both through their encouragement and, yes, occasionally through the photos they post on Facebook.
For example, my friend Rich has serious cancer and has just begun another round of chemotherapy. He has to sit in a doctor’s office for several hours at a time while he receives treatment. A few days ago, on his first day of chemo, Rich posted the following picture with this caption: “My View for the day! Santa Monica. Can see ocean in the distance.” (Thanks, Rich, for your example that reminds me to see the beauty in this world. Our prayers are with you.)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What in your life might keep you from seeing the beauty around you? What helps you see the beauty of this world? How does human art encourage you to enjoy God’s art? What difference does appreciation of beauty make in our lives? In our world?
Gracious God, sometimes I feel just like that teenager in Sequoia National Park. I can walk among the wonders of this world and miss them because I am so wrapped up in my own stuff. Forgive me, Lord, for neglecting the gift of beauty you have given. Help me, I pray, to see with fresh eyes, with the eyes you have given me. May I delight in the beauty of this world, receiving your good gifts with consistent gratitude. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.