The image is of Akiyoshidai, Japan, which I never heard of before a few weeks ago. From the website put together by the local tourist association:

Akiyoshidai is the largest karst plateau in Japan, spread in the middle and eastern part of Mine City. It was designated as a National Monument (Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park) in 1955 and a special natural monument in 1964. The limestone that makes up the magnificent landscape of Akiyoshidai is about 350 million years ago in the southern sea. It was born as a coral reef, and over the years has formed a karst plateau like today.

What exactly is “karst?” Evidently, it’s “landscape underlain by limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and other characteristic landforms” (Oxford Languages).

This isn’t meant to be a research paper of sorts, but it’s interesting to consider what we find to be beautiful in this life. For some, the above image (and others you can easily find online) is breathtaking, and even the geological background can be fascinating. For others, it may be…well, incredibly boring. It reminds me of the drive we take back to the family farm every once in a while: usually taking I-271 to I-71 before taking 30 west from Mansfield. For some, that drive through rural America can be soothing to the soul. For others…you better make sure you pack in as much caffeine as possible to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

I remember whenever my family would be coming back from seeing relatives in Columbus, my father would do our usual highway drive on 23 north for a while, but then he would venture off into a more…scenic route, as if he wanted to scout other fields or something, seemingly wanting to see what his farmer “competitors” were up to in those acres of absolute dullness for me. I cringed every time he took an exit well before the one that would have been the closest to home, the one that would have ensured the quickest transition for me to get to watching television or playing video games: you know, the far more important things than crops that could affect the world food supply.

Supposedly, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I wonder if that had something to do with his more…scenic routes. Maybe it wasn’t so much checking out the competition. Maybe that was his passion. Maybe those acres upon acres of what appeared to be the same ‘ole corn, soybeans, wheat, and perhaps some cows and horses thrown in there for good measure, is what soothed his soul.

It isn’t just about us considering what we believe to be beautiful in the world, from the surrounding (or other-side-of-the-world distant) landscape to humanity; it’s also about wondering what we’re willing to go out of our way for to see, to immerse ourselves, to experience, to love, to minister, to serve. Or, would we much prefer doing all the above as long as it’s on our way to wherever we may be going? Granted, I don’t plan on making a trip to Japan anytime soon, no matter how much the above image grabbed my attention. However, the image did grab my attention enough for me to go out of my way to find out a bit more about Akiyoshidai, and as much as I’m still not overly interested in limestone or anything geology-related, I can still appreciate such beauty developing over hundreds of millions of years.

Sometimes our ministry as disciples of Christ involves us taking a scenic route of sorts, and not just in actual vehicles, but through our prayer life, our diving into Scripture and other devotion materials, our taking extra time to find out about other parts of the world, our willingness to stick around a little longer and have a conversation with someone who needs someone talk to, even if it messes with being on our way to whatever is next. Yes, the connection can be made that the Divine eye finds plenty of beauty in this world that we, quite simply, do not. God was convinced there was more than enough beauty in this world to show us a death-defying love on the cross. God insists there’s still more than enough beauty around us to remain with us always. So, maybe a few more scenic routes should be on our discipleship docket. There just may be more soul-soothing experiences in the places and people we least expect. Amen (so let it be)!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

For more information about Akiyoshidai, please visit their official website: akiyoshidai-park.com