“I think she died,” I said to my husband as I lamented the appearance of my friend, the tree who once stood proudly along the fence line.
Each fall for decades she’d graced our backyard with a striking combination of colors. Every spring and summer her green waxy leaves provided beauty and shade. But on that mid-spring afternoon, she showed no signs of life. No leaf buds emerged from her long, bare limbs.
This mighty tree spread her branches at ninety-degree angles from the eighteen-inch-thick trunk. She stood in sharp contrast to the spring-green leaves and grassy lawn around her.
The black gum, otherwise known as black tupelo, owns a beautiful scientific name—Nyssa sylvatica. (I named her Nyssa for short.) Surely this fall, I would miss her glorious, postcard-perfect hues. As I grieved her demise, I researched a quick-growing replacement with pretty foliage to take her place.
Imagine my surprise when one late spring morning, I spotted tiny green leaves on Nyssa’s branches. In a few days, more leaves unfurled as her limbs reached out to embrace spring. Can a tree make a person as happy as I was that day? You bet it can.
Now my spring, summer, and fall views would be graced with beauty, and my walks around the yard promised to include the comfort of refreshing shade. My deciduous friend was simply a late “leafer.”
“Thank You, Lord,” I said with sincere gratitude.
As God accepted my thanks, He taught me a lesson—growth and potential are not always visible and may require time to bear fruit.
In my estimation—from outward signs–I pronounced my beloved black gum tree dead and began seeking a substitute. Unbeknownst to me, the stately “resident” of our back yard was teeming with robust growth under its gray furrowed bark. In a few weeks, verdant evidence popped into view.
Scripture instructs us to seek spiritual growth, but sometimes changes are invisible and seem slow to blossom into fruition.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 Peter 3:18
When we take the first step of our journey by seeking forgiveness for sin and surrendering to Jesus, God creates new life in us as surely as spring trees birth new leaves.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.2 Corinthians 5:17
Along the pathway, we sometimes struggle to be patient with ourselves and others when we can’t see signs of improvement. Thoughts of “I did that again,” and “I despise this sinful attitude,” are frustrating, but they lead us to our knees and serve as proof that God is transforming us.
Complacency and failure to seek God’s instruction and correction have no place in a believer’s heart. Obeying biblical truth is important, but when we remember it is the work of the Creator that molds us to the image of Christ, we have hope.
We can trust the One who generates new plant cells in dormant trees, to mature us season by season according to His plan. Resting in His strength to change us as we yield to His nurturing care, brings assurance and peace.
My back-yard nature lesson reminded me that spiritual growth is sometimes slow or invisible. We may not see instant evidence as God tills the soil and plants seeds of truth in our hearts. He later nourishes our development, prunes errant branches, and leads us “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). He promises to guide us.
What is our responsibility in the process? The Bible offers guidelines:
Pray without ceasing.1 Thessalonians 5:17
Study the Bible.
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.Psalm 119:11
Participate in Christian fellowship.
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
Listen to wise teachers.
Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.Proverbs 23:12
Find opportunities to serve others.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.1 Peter 4:10
Let’s ask ourselves these questions:
- How can I follow biblical teaching to grow in Christ?
- As I look back on my salvation journey, in which areas has God helped me mature?
- Am I patient with others as God works in their hearts?
When we long for spiritual growth and insight but feel like a leafless tree—stagnant and fruitless, God offers the refreshing shade of His presence, the power of His Son’s light, and the rainfall of His love. He promises,
He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
How great are the works of our God!
Which biblical principles help you grow in your walk with Christ?
Bible verses are taken from the NKJV.