The beautiful big blue spruce tree in our back yard died recently. It actually died a slow death over the last year or so. Our best guess is that it fell prey to disease like so many blue spruce (and other pine) trees in our area. It’s actually quite sad to see so many big dead trees around our neighborhood and nearby towns.
When we cut it down recently, we did what most other people of curiosity do—we counted the rings! My youngest son counted, my older son counted, and then I counted. If what they say is true about each ring representing a year, our big beautiful blue spruce tree was at least 50 years old.
It was actually quite fascinating studying the stump of this old tree. Some rings were thick, some were thin. And it wasn’t perfectly cylindrical either. The rings were wavy, as if they took a detour around something. I did a little research and discovered when the rings are thicker or wider, it indicates a moist year with lots of growth. When they’re thinner, it indicates a dry year with little growth. The waves in the rings can indicate either a knot in the tree or specifically where a new branch took shape.
In our tree, it looks like the first 15-20 years were times of good, solid growth. You can actually pinpoint the widest rings. We could draw the conclusion that those were years the tree thrived due to the nourishing moisture it received. But then the last 10-15 years, however, it looks like it slowed down considerably. The rings get smaller and smaller as you move toward the outside. The interesting thing is that this is a snapshot of the entire life of this tree—tremendous growth some years, tremendous drought other years.
If you were to take a snapshot of your life, which years were your growth years? No, I’m not talking physical growth, I’m talking spiritual growth. What has caused the most significant spiritual growth in you? My guess is it was the years where you were nurtured and fed. It was the years where someone poured into you spiritual truths, wisdom, and insight. It was the years when you were drinking deeply the Word of God, actively engaged in worship and Bible study. It was also the years where you poured the love of God into the lives of others.
But, what about your drought years? In the snapshot of your life, where your “rings” are thin, what happened? Those would be the years where perhaps you became complacent with your spiritual growth. Those are the years where you grew stagnant, with little or no spiritual nourishment. Those are the years where maybe you “took a break” from serving or pouring into the lives of others. I’m not a fan of those years, and heaven knows I’ve had plenty of them.
As followers of Jesus, our spiritual growth should be evident. Just like the thick, wide rings in a tree, we ought to be living lives indicative of growth. In the words of the Apostle Peter: “Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God” (1 Peter 2:2, MSG).
What are the most significant ways you have grown in your spiritual walk?