God did some spectacular setting up in the Garden of Eden. Somewhere in the creation process he made a garden, especially for Adam. In it he put some trees. Of course we know about the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Less well known is the Tree of Life, also in the middle of the garden. These were among all the trees that God put there.
But notice why God made these trees: "And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food" (Genesis 2:9).
Trees have a purpose. Trees are pleasing to the eye. I love to see the green leaves of an oak tree against a deep blue sky, leaves rustling in the breeze on a summer day. In the fall this same stand of trees turns golden, orange, and red, giving depth to the woods that changes with the hourly angle of the sun. When these trees lose their leaves, their lines show the simplicity and complexity of their skeletons. These lines gain depth again when snow marks them so carefully and individually.
Yes, trees are pleasing to the eye.
Trees are also good for food. We harvest their fruit and enjoy the sweetness of peaches and apples. Other trees are also useful. We can use their leaves for compost, we can cut the trees and mill them for lumber. We can hang swings from their branches.
Trees are beautiful, and trees are useful. Notice that beauty comes before utility in Genesis. We like to skip the beauty, and go straight to the utility. After all, what use is beauty?
Beauty is all around us. But we need to recognize it, encounter it, and let it transform us. God made this world both functional and beautiful. Among all God's creatures, only we are able to recognize this beauty. We have the capacity to engage with beauty, but so often we just ignore it.
Pondering, considering, absorbing, basking in, rejoicing in, resting in--this is how we encounter beauty. And this encounter transforms our souls.
Do we have time for that? When no one has time for beauty, we erode away into nothing but production. And there is so much more to life than production.