One of our rhododendrons was looking quite sad a few weeks ago. These bushes are classified as evergreens, but those leaves are not green! What’s going on??
Could the plant be sad? Sick? Or maybe even *gasp* dying??
So straight to Google I went. You know, the place everyone goes to find answers to life’s burning questions.
And wouldn’t you know, I found a new vocabulary word: senescence. And with its definition, all was right in my rhody world again.
Rhododrendons may be evergreen, but that doesn’t mean every leaf lives forever. There are always green leaves, but those leaves only live for two or three years before dying and falling off as the plant grows. It’s just part of the normal life cycle!
Looking at it now, the yellow leaves have all dropped, leaving the bush all green again (except for the brown oak leaves still stuck among the branches). No worries anymore!
Of course, if you look up senescent on dictionary.com, you get the lovely definition of “growing old; aging.” Not so exciting, to be sure.
So I will not ask you if you are senescent. Did I just hear a sigh of relief?
But I will ask you if senescence is part of your spiritual growth toward maturity.
Senescence and Spiritual Growth
Just as our rhododendron bushes need leaves to make food from sunlight, you need spiritual disciplines to grow spiritually so that you don’t starve yourself.
The rhody leaves that dropped within the last two weeks weren’t serving the plant anymore. They had their time of productivity and usefulness, but their time was up. It was time for a new generation of leaves to take their place to provide the needed nourishment.
When we first begin following Jesus, we are taught that certain things are absolutely necessary for us to grow spiritually. For you, this list may have included prayer, Bible reading and study, memorizing Bible verses, gathering with other believers, serving in the local church community, and more.
I am not advocating that it’s time you dropped any of these items from your list of spiritual practices! They each contribute to our growth in different areas, through different means.
What I am asking you to ponder is how you go about each one.
Here’s what I mean. Do you remember how you read the Bible when you first met Jesus? Is that still the same way you read it today? Do you still pray the same way? Do you study the Word using the same method?
Has anything changed? Sometimes we can get so familiar with a method of doing something that whatever we’re doing starts to lose meaning. We start reading or praying or studying by rote, and it takes extra effort to get anything to sink in and actually stick.
Perhaps it’s time for some senescence! Take a bit of time today and think about how you do what you do to feed your spirit.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.Jude 1:20-21 ESV
I encourage you to consider what needs to change in your personal spiritual routine. Examine what isn’t nourishing your spirit anymore, and find a new way of pursuing that same goal of growing closer to Jesus through:
- time in prayer
- time in the Word
- time with fellow believers, and
- time serving others.
I will be sharing a few ideas and resources over the course of a few posts this month that may help you to do just that.
I would love to hear how you’ve switched something up and found new zest in your walk with Jesus. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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