This bench in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park seems to have an unproductive purpose. You don’t do much on the bench except sit and look at the creek and the waterfalls. People probably don’t get a lot checked off their to-do list when they are sitting there.
The whole idea of national parks seems unproductive to some people. A lot of valuable land has been set aside. One of the main things that happens in the parks is people doing what I did recently when I was at the Great Smoky Mountains: they go for hikes and enjoy the artistry of what God has made.
As I spent a day driving and hiking in the woods and looking at creeks and waterfalls, I was thankful this land had been set aside for people to enjoy its beauty. It is possible God made some places not for us to build on or grow food on or extract metals from but just for us to look at and enjoy.
Taking time to enjoy God’s beautiful artwork can teach us about God and ourselves and bring renewal to our soul. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). David took some time and sat on his version of a park bench and considered the work of God’s fingers. Contemplating the majesty of what God had made spoke to him about the greatness of God, his smallness in comparison and the wonder that the God of creation cared for him. What a wonder it is that the God of creation loves us and came to save us.
The waterfalls make some noise but the message of God’s creation is much greater than simply water flowing over rocks. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). The mountains, the ocean, the creeks, the trees, the waterfalls; they declare the wisdom of God, the power of God, the skillfulness of God, the creativity of God. It is good to go for a hike or sit on a bench and pray for ears of faith that can hear what God’s artwork has to say to us.
Some of us feel guilty if we take time to sit on a bench and look at some waterfalls. We have so much we think we have to do. People may think we’re lazy if we just sit on a bench and enjoy the beauty in front of us. We need to spend more time thinking about God’s great work and less time worrying about what people may think. It is okay to have some time when we’re not doing but instead thinking about what the Lord has done. Time spent looking at some of God’s beautiful artwork and reflecting on what it teaches us isn’t wasted time. It can be very productive time as it can deepen our understanding and refresh our soul. Take some bench time this summer and find rest and renewal in the beauty of what God has made.