Plants, not Projects!
I remember it like it was yesterday, and it still makes me sick to my stomach. I had a big paper due the following morning during my freshman year of college. I had worked for weeks researching, writing, editing and getting everything just right ... and then I lost it. My computer failed, and I lost my work. It was the worst feeling. There’s something about projects — like my paper — that make them terrible to reproduce. I hate redoing work I’d already done.
Another area of my life I hate losing ground is in my spiritual growth as a Christian. I hate when I work hard to shake a bad habit or establish a regular discipline, and then over time slip back into old habits. Maybe it’s just me, but there have been times throughout my life that I've had to learn the same lessons over and over again. And I hate it. Just like losing that paper, I hate having to start again and redo what I’d already done.
A great moment of insight came for me in this regard when I learned the Christian life is less like a project and more like a plant. Projects, whether at work, at school or at home, often have tangible points of accomplishment you can check off. Like painting a bedroom, it’s very easy to see the progress you've made which is often motivation to keep going. And we usually don’t have to redo what we've accomplished. When we’re done, we’re done.
However, the growth of plants is less obvious moment-by-moment. Plants require regular attention and upkeep. Plants need to be fed and watered regularly, or they will dry up. Whether a plant is flourishing or struggling, leave it alone, and it will decay and eventually die. The Bible regularly compares spiritual life to things that grow and thrive. Jesus described His relationship with His followers as a vine and its branches (John 15:1-11) and himself as the “living water” (John 4:10-14). The Psalmist describes righteousness as flourishing like a palm tree and growing like a cedar in Lebanon (92:12) Isaiah compared the spiritual life to grass and willows by a flowing stream (44:3-4). It seems plants are a very common biblical descriptor of the Christian life.
I find this truth comforting, because it offers a helpful explanation for all my backslidings and declensions. It’s not that my life is a project that regularly needs to be redone, but rather it is a plant that regularly needs care. Those times that I've slipped back into old habits and patterns, I wasn't getting the spiritual nutrition it needed and just, like a plant, began to show signs of decay.
I believe we sometimes think of the Christian life as a series of plateaus. Once we make it to the next level, we can relax because we made it. Our relaxing makes us lazy, and we forget to feed our souls on Christ. As we neglect this living water, our spiritual life starts to wither and we slip back to old sins. Frustrated, we give up and figure the Christian life must just be too hard.
The good news is that the answer is plain. We merely need to keep ourselves in regular communion with Christ. The more of Christ we enjoy the more our lives flourish. And like plants, we never lose our need for the nourishment of communion with Him. We never arrive and lose our need for more. Just as our stomachs require food several times a day, so our spiritual lives also need regular sustenance.
So believer, if you would see your spiritual life thrive, do not neglect its regular feeding. Spend time regularly thinking about Christ, praying to Christ and meditating on the greatness of Christ in God’s Word. It is our growing knowledge and faith in Him that transforms us into His image. He will be solid food for your spiritual life, and you will find yourself thriving and flourishing in ways you could have never imagined. Feed on Christ. Repeat.
This post was written by Andrew Hess.