“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
The normally clear, flowing stream below me was covered with a carpet of freshly fallen cherry blossoms slowly making their way downstream. While maintaining my perch on an ancient footbridge, I raised my gaze to an equally mesmerizing random cascade of petals falling from the trees lining the water’s edge. The incredibly beautiful blossoms from only a week ago were now quickly scattering like snowflakes in the wind, affirming once again the brevity and fragility of all things. Thoughts on life, death and renewal seemed to disperse to the edges of my mind like the scattered petals all around me.
The cherry blossom is the unofficial national flower of Japan; it permeates art, poetry and the national consciousness of the Japanese people on various levels. Called “sakura” (桜) in Japanese, this delicate flower explodes upon the landscape every spring throughout Japan. Its greatly anticipated arrival is celebrated as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom in the southernmost parts of Japan in mid-March and usually complete their annual cycle around early May in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido. The advent of the sakura is a major news event and thousands flock across Japan to nearby parks to picnic (called “hanami”) under these gorgeous trees. There they revel in the temporal beauty of cherry blossoms representing the renewed glories of spring.
The author of Ecclesiastes likewise marveled at the beauty of creation and in so doing his thoughts were drawn beyond himself to the Creator of all things. It is typically not easy to move from the shallow things of life to deeper, eternal thoughts, as so much seems to get in the way. Therefore, to assist us in this all important journey, God has endowed the world around us with visible reminders of His presence and benevolent care. Such displays are worth celebrating and reflecting upon as they have the power to draw us away from the mundane, or routines of this life, to the greater things of God. As God has placed eternity in our hearts, the beauty of this created world beckons us to slow down and meditate on His existence.